A 29-year-old man in Ohio is now a father of five after adopting a sibling set last week.
Robert Carter, who is one of nine kids, knows firsthand the trauma of brothers and sisters being separated. At age 12, he was placed in a foster home without his support system.
“I didn’t eat for a week,” Carter told TODAY Parents. “I didn’t know where my family was. I didn’t know if I would ever see them again. It was traumatizing."
So when Carter became a foster parent to three boys in Dec. 2019, he was determined to reunite them with their sisters. Carter will never forget the day Robert, 9, Giovanni, 5, and Kiontae, 4, reconnected with Marionna, 10, and Makayla, 7, after six months apart.
“Everybody was just crying and hugging and not wanting to let go,” Carter recalled. "In that moment, I knew I had to adopt all five."
Carter quickly realized he shared a special connection with Marionna. Both acted like parents to their siblings before they entered the foster care system.
“When I was 10 I was left in charge to take care of everyone. I’d steal food because that was the only way we’d eat,” Carter revealed. “Marionna, she was the mother figure. She was responsible for everything. I understand what that’s like.”
The fifth grader, who moved in with Carter in January, is gradually learning how to be a kid.
“I want her to have a childhood. I didn’t have one,” Carter explained. “I won’t even let her make her brothers and sister a bowl of cereal. That’s not her job. Her job is to play."
Carter has observed profound changes in all the kids. Recently, they all started sleeping in their own beds.
“I used to get up and find them all together,” Carter said. “But they’re no longer afraid of being ripped apart.”
After the adoption ceremony on Oct. 30, Carter ducked into the courthouse bathroom. Carter didn’t want anyone to see him cry.
“I was so nervous it would fall through at the last minute," he told TODAY Parents. “But I get to be there for them for the rest of their life. They never have to worry about being neglected or alone ever again. We're a family forever."