(Photo credit: Hamilton County JFS Adoption & Foster Care Recruitment)
A single man just increased his family 5 times when he became a father of five after officially adopting an entire family of siblings. He did it to prevent them from being separated by the foster care system last week.
According to multiple news outlets, Robert Carter adopted siblings Marionna, Makayla, Robert, Giovanni, and Kiontae. When asked why he chose to take such a huge leap of faith, he explained that he personally knew how it felt to be removed from a biological home and ripped away from loved ones.
As the third oldest of nine, Carter knew firsthand the tragedy of being removed from a biological home and separated from siblings. At 12, he came into foster care in Hamilton County when his mom, unsupported and struggling with alcoholism, was incapable of caring for her children. He didn’t see some of his younger siblings for years. Carter thrived and was granted custody of a younger sister and guardianship of a younger brother once he was emancipated. His memories motivated him to stand in the gap for his own family and for his new one.
“When permanent custody was awarded to JFS, the five siblings were already placed in three different foster homes,” adoption worker, Stacey Barton said to Ohio’s HCkids.org. “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.”
Keeping a family together in adoption is rare. But even adopting African American children is also rare.
When it comes to adoption, Americans might assume that each child is treated equally. But research shows that darker-skinned children are repeatedly discriminated against, both by potential adoptive parents and the social workers who are charged with protecting their well-being.
According to Washington University law school professor Kimberly Jade Norwood, “In the adoption market, race and color combine to create another preference hierarchy: white children are preferred over nonwhite. When African-American children are considered, the data suggest there is a preference for light skin and biracial children over dark-skinned children.”
Yes, the child’s skin color–not just the race–also plays a major factor. Regardless of race, adopting parents prefer to adopt a light-skinned child. A 1999 study
at the Institute of Black Parenting, a Los Angeles adoption agency, showed that as many as 40 percent of the African-American couples expressed a preference for a light-skinned or mixed-race child, regardless of their own complexion.
Carter was fostering the three boys when he and the girls’ foster moms came together so the kids could see each other for the first time in six months. The children and the foster parents were all in tears.
“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.’ ”
Carter has been taking care of others his whole life. He missed school growing up so he could watch his younger siblings when his mom wasn’t around. Taking on custody and guardianship, being involved in HEMI mentoring and volunteering at South Avondale Elementary. He feels it is why he’s here.
After Adoption Day, when everything is official, Carter is looking forward to creating a new future with his children.
“Making memories to replace a lot of the bad ones.” he said. “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.’ 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.”