Teachers adopt student in need of medical care and a home

teachers adopt

The student was born with sickle cell anemia and lived with a family an hour away from school

When Jenna Riccio visited one of her students in the hospital, she went in thinking she could be a familiar face for the sick student. The seven-year-old was born with a blood cell disorder and his living situation wasn’t ideal. That is why Riccio asked if she could foster the child with her boyfriend. Years later, Nate Riccio legally became their son.


In September 2019, Nathaniel “Nate” Innocent Riccio who was seven at the time, needed emergency surgery. He was suffering from sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder that causes other medical issues. Due to complications, Nate had already had his legs and left arm amputated and he was suffering from liver and kidney damage too. His teacher, Jenna Riccio decided to pay him a visit. Knowing his family lived far away, she thought Nate might enjoy seeing “a familiar face”. She told The Washington Post: “Just thinking about him being at a hospital without his family there, I was just sad for him.”

Foster care

While talking to Nate’s social worker, Riccio was moved by his situation. She asked the social worker if she could foster Nate. When she told Tim Riccio (her then boyfriend) about the situation, he was on board. Being the school’s art teacher, he already knew Nate well. “It kind of felt like a no-brainer that we could be those people that could be there to help him,” Tim Riccio told The Post. When Nate was also willing to be fostered by his teachers, they started the process. And after 10 days, Nate moved in with the Riccio’s. They became a family pretty fast. Tim said: “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.’”


But the Riccio’s knew that Nate eventually would have to leave again. He used to be in touch with his birthparents but that contact faded over time. And that is when social workers decided that adoption would be the best option for Nate. Vannessa Dorantes, the commissioner of DCF, told the newspaper: “It was clear that it was in his best interest to remain with the Riccios.” The teachers were relieved to be able to adopt Nate. “He’s been here for everything,” Jenna Riccio told The Post. “I always wanted what was best for Nate.” But the teacher was sad to think that Nate would have to leave again eventually. On November 18, National Adoption Day, Nathaniel legally became the Riccio’s son.

Nate himself is excited about it too: “The adoption day was amazing, and it was the best time that I ever had. I was so happy to be officially part of this family,” he told The Washington Post. He especially loves having a sister now, who was born in February 2022. “I love making her laugh, I love making sure that she’s having fun, and I just love to see her grow up.”

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Source: The Washington Post | Image: Unsplash, Rod Long