5-year-old Noah was adopted by Michaela and Dave Robbins on Friday after spending 1,275 days in foster care

By Rachel DeSantis
December 12, 2020 10:00 AM
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The Robbins family
| Credit: LeeAnn K Photography/LeeAnn Stromyer

For one Pittsburgh couple, the journey to parenthood was a difficult one. But in the end, they found their “one-in-a-lifetime” kid — a 5-year-old who is medically fragile and has inspired them to encourage other parents to open their hearts to children with special needs.

“We wake up all the time and we look at each other and we’re like, ‘I can’t believe we got so lucky,’ ” Michaela Robbins, 33, tells PEOPLE. “Noah has improved our lives in every way.”

Robbins and her husband Dave officially made Noah a part of the family on Friday with a Zoom adoption hearing that friends and family attended virtually while decked out in festive red and green, as Noah is a huge fan of Christmas.

The special day was a culmination of all Noah has been through, as he spent 1,275 days in foster care before finding his forever home.

“Noah has felt like a part of our family since the moment we brought him home, and honestly, even before that,” Robbins says. “It’ll just feel so good to have it be legal. No one could ever take him away from us.”

Finding Noah was a fateful twist in an adoption journey that included three different agencies, and low points in which Robbins says she felt as though the universe was telling her, “This is not going to happen for you.”

Michaela and Noah Robbins
| Credit: Beth Healey

Eventually, the couple turned to The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemiuex Family Center, an organization that not only has a hospital and daycare for medically fragile children, but also has its own adoption program.

Michaela and Dave, 35, began by volunteering to rock babies at The Children’s Home’s Pediatric Specialty Hospital — but one Friday night in the summer of 2019, were led to Noah, a then 4-year-old with arthrogryposis, a condition that means his limbs are in a permanently bent position.

The couple struck up a bond with the child and soon learned that he was in foster care and looking for a mother and father.

“Noah says sometimes that he had always been looking for us, and when he found us, he just knew,” Robbins says. “I think we very much felt the same way about him.”

Dave and Noah Robbins
| Credit: Michaela Robbins

By December, he was home with Robbins and Dave, who underwent special training to learn how to properly care for Noah’s trach, gastrostomy tube, and ventilator, which he uses at night.

“It felt very fated,” she says. “My husband and I come from a long line of redheads and I kept saying to our social worker, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if we got a redhead?’ Obviously, it’s not a requisite but like, how cool would that be? And so it was just like the universe was like, ‘Yes, I have the redhead for you.' ’’

They believe, too, that the universe gave them plenty of help in making things with Noah as seamless as possible — Robbins thanks communities in West Palm Beach, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for supporting Noah throughout the nine major surgeries he’s had while in their custody.

Also helpful was a group from the local St. Paul’s Methodist church in Pittsburgh, which aided the family in building a ramp from their house to the backyard so that Noah could get in and out using his wheelchair.

Noah Robbins and his new ramp
| Credit: Dave Hochendoner Photography

“There’s just so many different people along the way that have helped him out,” she says. “Noah came to us as a formed person. We can’t take credit. I wish we could, ‘cause he’s such a great kid … There have been a lot of champions along the way for him.”

Erika Schmitt, director of adoption and permanency services at The Children’s Home, tells PEOPLE that Noah’s adoption story was “really special” for the program, as many staffers have known him since he was a baby.

“Upon learning [Noah needed an adoptive home], [Michaela and Dave] quickly embraced the idea of adopting Noah and fell more in love with him each day,” says Schmitt. “They worked tirelessly to learn his care, research his needs, and advocate for the best medical care and have continued to do this, and provide him with love, support and stability since the day they were able to bring him home.”

Noah Robbins
| Credit: Dave Robbins

The family is now working toward raising money on GoFundMe to buy Noah a van that’s wheelchair accessible, as his pediatric wheelchair weighs over 150 pounds and is near impossible to load into their Honda.

“To be able to take Noah to the grocery store or shopping or the playground would be so tremendous to include him in his community, and to give him greater independence,” Robbins says. “Because of our current transport situation, Dave and I end up either carrying him or putting him in a stroller, which, as he gets older, I think is a pretty decent bruise to his dignity and certainly to his independence.”

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Now that Noah’s adoption is finalized, Robbins says she and her husband will begin looking again at foster care in order to give their son a sibling – and that they’re open to another medically fragile child, considering they now have skills other foster parents might not have.

“I think a lot of people get intimidated by the prospect of medical complications for kids. [But] after you’ve had a Noah for a little while, it’s all gravy. It’s all good,” she says. “I would encourage anyone who is looking to adopt to open their hearts to a child with special needs. It’s been incredibly rewarding.”

PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to provide avenues for our readers to pay it forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about Causes — hubs that bring charities, individuals, donors and corporate partners together to help people in need — visit GoFundMe.