Foster care tends to be extremely misunderstood, with people often viewing foster children as “broken” or “damaged,” although this is far from true. The goal of foster care is reunification with biological parents whenever possible, but sometimes that isn’t an option. A former foster child has adopted five siblings from foster care, hoping to keep them from the same heartbreak he experienced as a child.
Robert Carter entered foster care when he was 12 years old and didn’t see his siblings for years. Eventually, once he was emancipated, he received custody of his younger brother and sister, but the experience had a long-term impact on him. He wants to make sure other families are able to stay together, so, even as a single father, he adopted five siblings: Marionna, Makayla, Robert, Giovanni, and Kiontae, keeping them together.
Stacey Barton, an adoption worker for Hamilton County Job and Family Services (JFS), told WLWT that no other foster parent was willing to take all five of them, so the siblings had been separated. “When permanent custody was awarded to JFS, the five siblings were already placed in three different foster homes,” she said. “Mr. Carter was the only foster parent willing and able to adopt all of the children. 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 started by fostering the three boys, with two other people fostering the girls. The three of them worked together to make sure the siblings could see each other for the first time in six months. The emotion he saw from them drove him to realize he needed to take action.
“I understand how they feel,” he said. “I understand what they went through, so it really touched me. I was already thinking about adopting all of the kids but when I saw them crying, I was like, ‘Ok, I’m going to take all five to keep them together.’”
His experiences with taking care of his own siblings, and volunteering at elementary schools, are what he said led him to adopt. “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,'” he said. “Like Marionna. She’s warmed up so much since the beginning. At first, she didn’t like me. She walked in my room last night and said, ‘I just want to say thanks for taking us in and taking care of us when our real mom couldn’t.’ It just really touched me. So just making memories, letting them know I’m here and they never have to go. I’m here for them no matter what.”
The foster care system needs more people like Carter, willing to give children homes and provide them with the love, stability, and healing they need.
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