Difficult Conversations

(WJRT) - (11/17/16) - November is national adoption month.

If you ask most parents, they'll probably tell you it's an experience like no other.

However, as society continues to through some tense changes, families of multiracial adoptions are finding the rewards of parenting also comes with some new challenges.

Chris and Julie Jo Phillips are the proud parents of five children.

"You know it's a lot of work and it's messy and tough," said Chris. "There's so much joy that comes with it, there's so many moments, just tenderness from our kids."

"The kids deserve for us to be crazy in love with them, and not hold anything back," said Julie.

The Fenton area couple are the proud adoptive parents of 7 year old Heaven, 6 year old James, 4 year old Kingston, and a 2 year old.

The couple is also fostering a 1 year old girl.

Just like any parent, the God fearing couple has big hopes and dreams for their modern family. However, the reality is they know that beyond the four walls of a home filled with love, is a world that may not be open to their little ones and their multiracial family.

At a time when issues of race, discrimination, injustice, and images of violence and unrest are at the forefront of the headlines, the Phillips are concerned about what the future will hold for their kids as they get older.

Early on, Julie Jo prepared herself for when the time comes and her children ask those hard questions.

"I remember rocking them as babies, and practicing having hard conversations with them," said Julie. "Practicing having hard conversations about their first families. Practicing having hard conversations about why our family looks the way it does. I remember thinking if I can do it now, in this place where it's peaceful and serene and they can feel the love and the protection that's coming with that, I thought maybe I get good at it and be able to have those conversations later when they can talk back."

They're difficult conversations and topics that no family should have to tackle, but the Adoption Program Director with the Ennis Center says it's the climate we are living in.

Terrie Murphy-Daniels says keeping open and honest lines of communication is exactly what families of multi-racial adoptions should be doing.

"I would suggest that they tell the child, I will protect you. Yes we can go through these challenges together, but I love you and I will protect you. This doesn't have to be your reality, but we need to talk about it."

Murphy-Daniels says a large number of children through Ennis are either adopted or fostered to families of a different race.

She's found that the issues of race or culture are mainly raised by those outside of the family.

"Well you know those challenges, they actually come from the community," said Murphy-Daniels. "Sometimes families are coming from a community that is all of their own same race. That can be Caucasian as well as African American families."

The Phillips have a huge support group that includes family, diverse friends, and their church.

"You have to learn about hair, and culture," said Chris. "They're at an age where things aren't as complicated because they're just kids. But as they grow, we know there will be different issues."

But until it's time to have those talks, the Phillips say they will continue to celebrate every aspect of their kids.

They pray that it'll be enough to help their little ones handle whatever life brings their way.

"My hope is that we've equipped them with everything they need to be. Who they've been planned to be by God, and to live out their purpose," said Julie Jo. "To know that they're loved and they have a home to run too when the world gets crazy. But they also have a God that goes with them everywhere. I want them to know that."

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