A man who was separated from his siblings in the Ohio foster care system years ago, decided he did not want one family to experience the same thing.
When Robert Carter was just 12-years-old, he was placed in a foster home and separated from his eight siblings. Understanding the emotional trauma that it caused him, Carter, who is now 29, wanted to right a wrong and decided to reunite the three boys he became a foster parent to in Dec. 2018 with their two sisters.
Carter decided to take the next big step and adopt all five children as his own.
“I can’t even begin to try to put it into words what it means,” Carter shares. “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.”
But before Carter became a foster parent to Robert, 9, Giovanni, 5, and Kiontae, 4, he was battling being the third oldest of nine kids.
“I was the parent figure,” he recalls. “I was the one trying to feed my siblings and going out trying to find food to eat. When we got into foster care, I didn’t know where they were and if they were taken care of. That’s what set off my [years-long] depression.”
It was those same memories that drove Carter to find the boys’ sisters, Marionna, 10, and Makayla, 7, and bring them together in June 2019 after six long months apart.
“My boys, they never talked about mom, they never talked about dad, just [their sisters], so I knew I had to make that happen,” Carter recalls, adding how when they finally reunited at the girls’ elementary school, “We cried the entire time and that was the moment I was like, ‘Okay, I have to adopt them and keep them together.'”
So on January 3, the man welcomed all five kiddos into his home. And by October 30, he had officially become their father — completing the six-month adoption process. Carter’s partner, Kiontae Gillan, who he has been separated from for close to three months, was also there in support as he still helps care for the kids and is considered to be their “papa.”
“I’m not a real emotional person and don’t like to show it,” adds Carter. “After it was finalized, I felt so relieved. I woke up the next day in complete ease. It’s a fresh start for all of us.”
Carter says his household has since become “a lot louder than I’m used to” but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’d rather have that noise and know they’re together than to not have it and have peace and quiet and know they’re separated. It’s worth it,” he says.
And while Carter has changed the children’s lives, he admits their impact on him is immeasurable.
“Ever since I’ve gotten the kids, I don’t suffer from depression. They’ve helped me and changed me in so many ways,” he says. “Out of nowhere the other day, Marionna came into my room and [thanked me] and gave me a hug and then ran away because she’s so shy.”
“It’s moments like that where I feel grateful that I am on my feet enough to keep these kids out of trouble and keep them safe,” Carter continues. “Anything I do is motivated by them, to make sure that they’ll be able to hit the ground running when they’re old enough. They give me purpose. And just knowing I have my own family now for the rest of my life, and I get to see them grow up and prosper and see how far they go… it’s immeasurable.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.