After being discharged from hospital, Nate went to a foster home, an hour away from school. It wasn't an ideal situation, so his teacher adopted him.
Adopting a child and giving them a home is not easy. There are various challenges involved like going through the adoption process and not knowing if the child will accept their new family. For Connecticut teachers and couple, Jenna and Tim Riccio, this was secondary. All they cared about was giving a home to their 10-year-old student, Nate. Jenna, a reading teacher at Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury, Connecticut, told PEOPLE that Nate taught her "how to be a mother." Her husband, Tim added, "He's a perfect example of how you can persevere."
Tim said that Nate has gone through a lot because of his sickle cell anemia but still continues to be positive in life. More than 3 years ago, due to the complications of the disease, Nate's legs below the knees, his left arm, and two and a half fingers on his right hand had to be amputated. He was hospitalized in September 2019 for emergency surgery to stop an infection in his arm.
Jenna went to visit Nate in the hospital to make sure that Nate was comfortable and found that he was there by himself with no family. That's when Jenna came to know that Nate had been removed from his family home about 10 days ago. The doctors were worried that he will miss his appointments and not get the needed medical care. Jenna wanted to cheer Nate up and have someone he knew there with him. After he was discharged from the hospital, he was sent to a foster home more than an hour away from school. Jenna said, "It wasn't the ideal situation for him." She was worried about what was going to happen to her student.
Jenna thought that she had enough space for Nate in her house and she also stayed near the school. She checked with the Department of Children and Families caseworker if she could become his foster parent. She also spoke to Tim who was then her boyfriend and he was excited about it. "I wanted to be a part of it," said Tim. Next, Jenna went through background checks and home visits to become a foster parent. Finally, on October 3, 2019, Nate went home from the hospital to Jenna's house.
On New Year’s Eve, Tim proposed to Jenna and Nate was the ring bearer at the couple's wedding on May 15, 2021. In February 2022, Nate became a big brother when Jenna had her and Tim's daughter, Julien. "She's obsessed with him," said Jenna, "and lights up when she hears his voice." Even though Nate has been part of their family, it was only on November 18, 2022, that Jenna and Tim officially adopted Nate. "That day was amazing," said Nate. It happened on National Adoption Day at Waterbury juvenile court where the adoption hearing took place. Recalling the red-letter day, Nate said, "I was so happy. They take care of me in every way, the best way possible — the way that my parents weren't able to," he added.
Nate was once in a wheelchair but now has prosthetic legs. He requires more surgeries on his amputations as his bones grow through his skin but other health issues caused by sickle cell anemia have become much better, said Jenna. She wants to inspire others to foster kids who need a family with this heart-warming story of parenting her student.