As a 12-year-old child, Robert Carter was separated from his eight younger siblings when they entered the foster care system. It was an emotionally traumatic experience for the now 29-year-old man, so when Carter saw the opportunity to reunite five separated sibling foster children in his own home, he told People he knew he had to do.
“I can't even begin to try to put it into words what it means,” Carter said. “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.”
Carter recalled a childhood where he was the parental figure for his eight younger brothers and sisters, spending his time “trying to find food” to “feed my siblings.” After placement in foster care, he “didn’t know where they were and if they were taken care of.” The breakup caused a years-long battle with depression, helpless to do anything to reunite his family. He recognized kindred spirits when Carter decided to foster the trio of young brothers Robert, age 9, Giovanni, 5, and Kiontae, 4.
“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 remembered. The three boys had two sisters Marionna, age 10, and Makayla, age 7,
Their first reunion took place at the girls' school last summer. It was an emotional experience for everyone, and an epiphany for Carter.
“We cried the entire time and that was the moment I was like, ‘Okay, I have to adopt them and keep them together,’” he said.
Carter started the process almost immediately, and was able to bring the two sisters into his home as foster children and reunite the family. Last month, he officially adopted all five in an emotional ceremony in Ohio. With him was his Kionta Gillan, his former partner. Despite their breakup three months ago, Gillan still helps take care of the five children, who lovingly refer to him as their “Papa.”
Carter is still adjusting to a much noisier household, but he doesn’t mind. The benefits of starting a new family from a broken one far outweigh the increase in decibel level.
“They give me purpose,” Carter beamed. “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.”