A scholar wanted medical care and a house. His lecturers adopted him.


When first-grade instructor Jenna Riccio came upon one among her college students wanted emergency surgical procedure in September 2019, she determined to go to him on the Connecticut Youngsters’s Medical Heart as he recovered. She knew he had not too long ago been moved into foster care, and thought he’d respect seeing her.

“Simply fascinated with him being at a hospital with out his household there, I used to be simply unhappy for him,” she stated about her scholar, Nathaniel “Nate” Harmless Riccio, who was then 7. “I simply wished to be a well-recognized face.”

Nate was born with sickle cell anemia, a pink blood cell dysfunction that may result in different severe medical considerations, comparable to infections and persistent ache. Whereas therapies can relieve ache and stop problems, there isn’t any treatment.

Attributable to problems along with his sickle cell anemia, each of Nate’s legs had already been amputated under his knees, alongside along with his left arm and a number of other fingers on his proper hand. He has additionally suffered from liver and kidney injury, amongst different well being points.

Whereas on the hospital, Riccio chatted with a social employee from the Connecticut Division of Youngsters and Households about Nate’s foster scenario and realized that the household he was staying with lived about an hour away from his faculty, Walsh Elementary Faculty in Waterbury, Conn.

The association, Riccio realized from the employee, “wasn’t splendid,” for Nate, who Riccio described as “tremendous shiny and simple to like.”

She turned to Nate’s social employee and instantly stated: “Can I foster him?”

After leaving the hospital, Riccio informed her then-boyfriend, Tim Riccio, about her spontaneous provide. He was all in. Tim Riccio already knew Nate effectively, as he was the college artwork instructor.

“It type of felt like a no brainer that we may very well be these those who may very well be there to assist him,” stated Tim Riccio, who wasn’t residing with Jenna Riccio on the time, however moved in shortly after.

“We didn’t know the total extent of every little thing he had gone via, however we knew the scenario he was in and the way a lot he wanted any person there,” he added.

As soon as Nate confirmed that he was on board with the plan, the method started. In 10 days — after they accomplished background checks, coaching programs and a house inspection — Nate moved into Jenna Riccio’s house, and by no means left.

She realized that Nate’s ongoing medical wants prolonged past what his beginning household may meet, and that after a collection of missed medical appointments, he had been faraway from his beginning household by the Division of Youngsters and Households (DCF).

“He was a younger boy that had extraordinarily complicated wants and he was unable to have his wants met regularly,” stated Ken Mysogland, the bureau chief of exterior affairs at DCF.

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As soon as Nate moved in with the Riccios, “it didn’t take very lengthy in any respect” for them to start out feeling like a household, Tim Riccio stated.

“Once you’re waking up with a child in the course of the evening and serving to him dress within the morning and giving him baths and doing all of the stuff that folks do, it was solely a pair months, and we had been ‘mother and pa.’”

Initially, Nate was nonetheless in communication along with his birthparents, and the aim was for him to finally reunite with them. Over time, although, they distanced, and social staff decided that adoption was a greater various.

“It was clear that it was in his finest curiosity to stay with the Riccios,” stated Vannessa Dorantes, the commissioner of DCF. “Kinship doesn’t should be by blood; it needs to be about individuals who love and take care of a particular little one.”

Within the Riccios’s case, Dorantes added, their dedication to Nate’s well-being was clear from the get-go. Youngsters with complicated medical wants are notably troublesome to put in foster houses.

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“I do know the sacrifices lecturers make for his or her college students, and on this explicit scenario, you had a instructor that cared a couple of little one that she was assigned to,” Dorantes stated. “He was a fairly sick little boy, and he or she wished to verify somebody was there for him that she knew he’d be comforted by.”

Lately, being a instructor has been fraught with challenges, resulting in nationwide staffing shortages and widespread burnout. Not too long ago, an elementary faculty instructor in Newport Information, Va., was shot and injured by a 6-year-old student.

The Riccios stated they imagine their function as lecturers extends past the classroom, which is why they supplied to take Nate house. Whereas adoption wasn’t initially on their minds, as soon as it grew to become an choice, they stated they had been relieved greater than anything.

“He’s been right here for every little thing,” stated Jenna Riccio, including that Nate was the ring bearer on the couple’s marriage ceremony in Might 2021 and was additionally current for his or her daughter’s beginning in February 2022. “I at all times wished what was finest for Nate,” however “it was unhappy for me” to suppose that he would finally go away.

The Riccios stated they had been undeterred by Nate’s medical wants. Given that he’s nonetheless rising, he would require revision surgical procedures each few years, and frequent monitoring.

“There’s a whole lot of follow-ups that should occur to maintain him wholesome,” stated Jenna Riccio, including that they’re grateful for the assist of hospital employees and social staff, in addition to household and pals.

Dorantes stated she hopes the Riccios will encourage others to comply with swimsuit within the methods they will. “It’s only a excellent instance of odd individuals making a unprecedented distinction in a toddler’s life,” she stated.

Nate — who had used a wheelchair and now walks with prosthetic legs — is in fifth grade and doing remarkably effectively, Jenna Riccio stated.

Though the couple took in Nate a number of years in the past, as of Nov. 18 — which is Nationwide Adoption Day — he legally became their son.

“The adoption day was superb, and it was the very best time that I ever had,” Nate stated. “I used to be so pleased to be formally a part of this household.”

His favourite side of being a Riccio, he added, “is having nice dad and mom that handle me so effectively and having just a little sister to play with and handle.”

“I really like making her snort, I really like ensuring that she’s having enjoyable, and I simply like to see her develop up,” Nate stated of his sister, Julien.

Nate has ambitions to grow to be an actor at some point and has participated in a number of appearing workshops at a neighborhood theater.

His dad and mom say they’re blown away by how far he has come.

“He has simply blossomed,” Jenna Riccio stated. “He’s just a little particular person now along with his personal goals, and it’s fairly unimaginable to know that we’re there to assist him via all of it.”

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