Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A student needed medical care and a home. His teachers adopted him.


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When first-grade instructor Jenna Riccio discovered certainly one of her college students needed emergency surgical procedure in September 2019, she determined to go to him on the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center as he recovered. She knew he had not too long ago been moved into foster care, and thought he’d recognize seeing her.

“Just thinking about him being at a hospital without his family there, I was just sad for him,” she stated about her student, Nathaniel “Nate” Innocent Riccio, who was then 7. “I just wanted to be a familiar face.”

Nate was born with sickle cell anemia, a purple blood cell dysfunction that may result in different severe medical issues, comparable to infections and power ache. While therapies can relieve ache and forestall issues, there isn’t any remedy.

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Due to issues together with his sickle cell anemia, each of Nate’s legs had already been amputated beneath his knees, alongside together with his left arm and a number of fingers on his proper hand. He has additionally suffered from liver and kidney harm, amongst different well being points.

While on the hospital, Riccio chatted with a social employee from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families about Nate’s foster state of affairs and realized that the household he was staying with lived about an hour away from his faculty, Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury, Conn.

The association, Riccio realized from the employee, “wasn’t ideal,” for Nate, who Riccio described as “super bright and easy to love.”

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She turned to Nate’s social employee and out of the blue stated: “Can I foster him?”

After leaving the hospital, Riccio instructed her then-boyfriend, Tim Riccio, about her spontaneous supply. He was all in. Tim Riccio already knew Nate properly, as he was the varsity artwork instructor.

“It kind of felt like a no-brainer that we could be those people that could be there to help him,” stated Tim Riccio, who wasn’t dwelling with Jenna Riccio on the time, however moved in shortly after.

“We didn’t know the full extent of everything he had gone through, but we knew the situation he was in and how much he needed somebody there,” he added.

Once 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 residence inspection — Nate moved into Jenna Riccio’s residence, and by no means left.

She realized that Nate’s ongoing medical wants prolonged past what his start household may meet, and that after a sequence of missed medical appointments, he had been faraway from his start household by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“He was a young boy that had extremely complex needs and he was unable to have his needs met on a regular basis,” stated Ken Mysogland, the bureau chief of exterior affairs at DCF.

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Once Nate moved in with the Riccios, “it didn’t take very long at all” for them to start out feeling like a household, Tim Riccio stated.

“When you’re waking up with a kid in the middle of the night and helping him get dressed in the morning and giving him baths and doing all the stuff that parents do, it was only a couple months, and we were ‘mom and dad.’”

Initially, Nate was nonetheless in communication together with his birthparents, and the aim was for him to in the end reunite with them. Over the years, although, they distanced, and social staff decided that adoption was a higher various.

“It was clear that it was in his best interest to remain with the Riccios,” stated Vannessa Dorantes, the commissioner of DCF. “Kinship doesn’t have to be by blood; it has to be about people who love and care for a specific child.”

In the Riccios’s case, Dorantes added, their dedication to Nate’s well-being was clear from the get-go. Children with advanced medical wants are significantly tough to position in foster properties.

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“I know the sacrifices teachers make for their students, and in this particular situation, you had a teacher that cared about a child that she was assigned to,” Dorantes stated. “He was a pretty sick little boy, and she wanted to make sure someone was there for him that she knew he’d be comforted by.”

In latest years, being a instructor has been fraught with challenges, resulting in nationwide staffing shortages and widespread burnout. Recently, an elementary faculty instructor in Newport News, Va., was shot and injured by a 6-year-old student.

The Riccios stated they consider their function as teachers extends past the classroom, which is why they supplied to take Nate residence. While adoption wasn’t initially on their minds, as soon as it grew to become an choice, they stated they have been relieved greater than anything.

“He’s been here for everything,” stated Jenna Riccio, including that Nate was the ring bearer on the couple’s marriage ceremony in May 2021 and was additionally current for his or her daughter’s start in February 2022. “I always wanted what was best for Nate,” however “it was sad for me” to suppose that he would ultimately depart.

The Riccios stated they have 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 lot of follow-ups that needs to happen to keep him healthy,” stated Jenna Riccio, including that they’re grateful for the assist of hospital employees and social staff, in addition to household and mates.

Dorantes stated she hopes the Riccios will encourage others to observe go well with within the methods they will. “It’s just a perfect example of ordinary people making an extraordinary difference in a child’s life,” she stated.

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

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

“The adoption day was amazing, and it was the best time that I ever had,” Nate stated. “I was so happy to be officially part of this family.”

His favourite side of being a Riccio, he added, “is having great parents that take care of me so well and having a little sister to play with and take care of.”

“I love making her laugh, I love making sure that she’s having fun, and I just love to see her grow up,” Nate stated of his sister, Julien.

Nate has ambitions to develop into an actor in the future and has participated in a number of appearing workshops at a native theater.

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

“He has just blossomed,” Jenna Riccio stated. “He’s a little person now with his own dreams, and it’s pretty incredible to know that we are there to support him through it all.”

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