Before they became parents, Cory and Amanda Kick didn’t know much about the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
But that all changed several years ago, when they adopted their son Ben, and later their daughter Haddie, from South Africa.
“Before we got connected, we were kind of overwhelmed, we didn’t know what to do,” Cory said. “Now, knowing we aren’t the only ones advocating for these two. It’s a big deal for us.”
When Cory and Amanda met, things got serious quickly. From the very beginning, Amanda was committed that adoption would be in their future.
Cory has several family members who were adopted so he was excited about that possibility to grow their family.
The couple worked hard to buy a house and prepare for a new family member. They decided an international adoption from South Africa was the best option for them.
At first, adopting a child with disabilities wasn’t something they were considering. But when they heard Ben’s story, they felt their hearts open, Cory said.
Ben has cerebral palsy and is deaf. But his orphanage didn’t realize he couldn’t hear until after he turned 4, when he began working with a teacher who taught him to sign.
Ben had spent months on South Africa’s “Waiting Child List” which includes children who are determined to be eligible for international adoption, once efforts to find adoptive parents in South Africa and surrounding countries are exhausted.
“We learned a lot about his diagnoses and realized —how could we not be open to everything?” Cory said.
They traveled to Ben’s South African orphanage and brought him home to Newark in 2018. He began attending the Ohio School for the Deaf and learning American Sign Language.
Soon they fell in love again, with Haddie, and returned to South Africa in 2019 to meet their daughter.
Despite months of government red tape — that left Amanda and Haddie stuck in South Africa for four months —they were able to get her home and settled in as a student at Hillview Elementary.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the two kids have been thriving at school, Cory said. Support from their teachers, school staff and the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities have made a big difference, he said.
“Everyone is on our team,” Cory said.
Haddie has cerebellar agenesis —a rare condition when the brain grows without a cerebellum — and uses a wheelchair. Cory and Amanda renovated their home to increase her mobility and worked with her LCBDD Service Coordinator to purchase equipment to help with her physical therapy.
But as they established new routines with two kids, they found that their biggest challenge came when they tried to leave the house with both their children. They needed a vehicle that could fit Haddie’s wheelchair while also supporting Ben’s mobility needs.
At the beginning of 2020 they reached out to their Service Coordinator to explore options to add a lift to their family van.
It was important to them to have the lift on the side of the van, so Ben could easily get to his seat while Haddie was safely inside.
LCBDD worked closely with the state of Ohio to get approval for funding and then with the company that installed the ramp and lift into the van. It was a long process but LCBDD’s involvement made things much easier, Cory said.
“I always felt like we were being advocated for,” he said.
The van was completed just in time for their summer vacation and the kids were able to ride comfortably all the way there.
Ben gets excited about exploring new places and attending sporting events, while Haddie loves cuddling and getting lots of attention from her family.
As they grow, the van will allow the Kicks to spend more time together, doing things both kids enjoy, Cory said.
He said he’s thankful for the impact LCBDD has had on their family.
“It’s been a lifeline for us,” he said.
Editor’s note: Amanda Kick is currently a Service Coordinator on LCBDD’s adult team. Following policies established by the Board’s Ethics Committee, she has no professional involvement in the services her children receive, allowing her to advocate for them solely as their mother.