Ohio Dad Who Adopted 5 Siblings from Foster Care Celebrates 1 Year as a Family: 'It Warms My Heart'

"It's so beautiful to be able to see them grow together," Robert Carter tells PEOPLE of his kids, Robert, Giovanni, Kiontae, Marionna, and Makayla

It's been 12 months since Robert Carter officially opened his heart — and home — to five siblings in foster care.

And while it's certainly been a "busy" year for the single Ohio dad, 30, he tells PEOPLE he wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's so beautiful to be able to see them grow together," Carter says of his kids, including sons Robert, almost 10, Giovanni, 6, and Kiontae, 5, and daughters Marionna, almost 12, and Makayla, 8.

"They're bonding a lot more now. They fall asleep watching movies together, they sleep in each other's rooms," he adds. "They just motivate me. Everything I do now, I think about them first and how it's going to affect them. That keeps me on the straight and narrow."

Robert Carter
Robert Carter with his five kids. Robert Carter

It's for that reason that Carter hopes others will consider becoming an adoptive parent, especially with National Adoption Day approaching on Nov. 20.

Listen below to Me Becoming Mom to hear Jillian Michaels' adoption journey and her unique road to motherhood.

"As long as they have the love in their heart, the time, and the means to take care of these kids that need forever homes, then I feel like they should step up and do it," he says. "If it's in your heart, then it's obviously meant for you to do it, as long as it's in your heart for the right reasons."

A foster child himself, Carter knew he had to reunite the quintet after being separated from his own eight siblings at age 12, as PEOPLE previously reported.

Robert Carter
Robert Carter's five children. Robert Carter

While fostering the three boys in Dec. 2018, Carter set out to find their sisters and finally brought them together that following June, after six long months apart.

"The first time they saw each other after six months, they all cried," says Carter, who owns a salon in Cincinnati. "After that moment, that's when I knew that they should be together forever."

In January 2020, Carter welcomed all five kids into his home and by Oct. 30, he had officially become their father, marking the end of a six-month adoption process.

Robert Carter
Robert Carter's five kids jumping outside. Robert Carter

In the year that has followed, Carter says the family has been focused on "making memories," including adopting two dogs, moving to a larger home in Cincinnati, hosting Halloween gatherings and launching a YouTube channel.

The kids have also been busy excelling in school, pursuing extra-curricular activities, and finding their passions, like gymnastics, cheerleading, dance and making TikTok videos.

Robert Carter
Robert Carter with his son Kiontae. Robert Carter

November is National Adoption Month, and PEOPLE is celebrating by highlighting the many extraordinary ways families can grow via adoption, featuring real stories from celebrities, everyday parents and adoptees, as well as information on the varied ways to adopt. For more heartwarming, heartbreaking and happy-ending stories, visit our Adoption page.

Robert Carter
Robert Carter's daughter Makayla. Robert Carter

"Me and the kids are big fans of Halloween, it's actually our favorite holiday," Carter says. "So the day of their adoption, I told them we can have a big party. Marionna made me promise, every year now for our anniversary, we have to have a big Halloween party. So, we had a big party this year."

"They also wanted to do YouTube, so we started a channel," he adds. "We launched it to celebrate our one-year anniversary. The first video is me revealing our new house to the kids."

While these moments as a family have been incredibly special, Carter admits that he's also found them to be bittersweet.

"To see them together, it just warms my heart," he says. "But it also makes me think of how much their biological parents are missing out on."

Robert Carter
Robert Carter with his daughter Marionna. Robert Carter

"[Their] mom did reach out to me the day she got out of jail after doing three years," he says. "She was like, 'Hey, I would like to see my kids as soon as possible.' I told her that I need at least a year or two of her being clean before we even talk about her seeing the kids."

"Because that message alone just let me know that she's not ready," he adds. "If she wants a relationship with them, and they want a relationship with her, then I'm open to it. But only if she's doing what she's supposed to do."

Robert Carter
Robert Carter's son Robert. Robert Carter

Looking ahead, Carter says his family plans to host Thanksgiving at their house with their extended family and hopes to make a trip to Disney World around Christmas.

"We were supposed to go to Disney to celebrate the adoption, but due to COVID, we didn't go," he explains. "We might have to make the trip for Christmas this year so we can experience that together. They've never really been anywhere so it'll be nice to experience Christmas out of town and somewhere warm."

Robert Carter kids
Robert Carter's son Giovanni. Robert Carter

Though his hands are certainly full these days, Carter says he's learned quite a lot in his short 30 years of life — and more importantly, in his role as dad.

"I just take it one day at a time," he says. "With my kids, I had to learn a little more patience than what I had originally, just because they're not my biological kids so they already were set in their ways. I can't expect them to act like me or to have the same temperament as me when they're not my biological kids."

"They do have certain things that I have to work on with them," he adds. "But on those harder days, my kids keep me going. Because if I don't, who else is going to provide for them or take care of them? As a parent, you feel like no one's going to take care of your kids like you are. They keep me focused."

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