Single foster dad Robert Carter decided to adopt an entire brood of five siblings to keep them together. Carter, 29, spent years in the Ohio foster care system himself so he knew only too well what it was like to lose touch with loved ones. He entered the system at age 12 and wasn’t reunited with his younger sister and brother until years later when they were teens. Carter was emancipated and granted custody of a younger sister and guardianship of a younger brother, he said. The emotional trauma of the experience fueled his desire to shield other kids from similar distress and provide them with a safe home.
Prior to the adoption, Carter was already fostering the three brothers and the two sisters were each being fostered in separate homes. When he arranged for the girls and their foster moms to meet up so the children wouldn’t lose touch with one another, he realized how distressed they all were at the end of the visit and he knew there was only one course of action. The children Carter adopted are Marionna, 10, Robert, 9, Makayla, 8, Giovanni, 5, and Kiontae, 4.
Carter became a licensed foster parent in 2017 and the three boys, Robert, Giovanni and Kiontae were placed with him in December 2018. The siblings, who he said came from a neglectful home, were reunited after not seeing each other for six months. “Once I did find out they had sisters, that’s when I started to advocate to set up visitations.” Carter said. Marionna and Makayla were later placed in Carter’s home with their brothers.
Caseworker Stacey Barton said “Mr. Carter was the only foster parent willing and able to adopt all of the children and his childhood background has made him aware of the importance of keeping siblings together. He says that he enjoys being their father and that parenting them is easier than he could have ever imagined. His life is busy, with a lot of love, laughter and loudness. I have enjoyed working with him and witnessing the children bond as siblings.”
Carter said he was the third oldest of the nine kids in his own family and he took on a parenting role before he entered foster care. “I was the parent figure and was the one trying to feed my siblings and going out trying to find food to eat.” Carter said he sees a lot of himself in Marionna, the oldest, “She’s the mother figure to the kids,” he explained. “But I won’t even let her make them a bowl of cereal now because that’s not her responsibility. She’s done it for too long when she shouldn’t have had to in the first place.”
With all the attention his family’s story is getting, he wants people to know how important fostering and adoption are. “Just the fact that they’re together, the fact that they have something that will help them remember their past… It’s beautiful to watch them grow up together and make memories together. As long as you have the means and love to give to kids, then anybody can do it,” he said. Right now, Carter is concentrating on earning his children’s trust and assuring them. “Every night, I talk to them and let them know, ‘I’m your dad forever. I know what it’s like, and I’m always here for you.’”