Couple adopts eight Karen refugees

By December 15, 2009

USA (MNN) — In Burma,
countless Karen children have faced inconceivable horrors, such as witnessing their
parents' brutal murders and being told that the same would be done to them. Eight Karen
kids recently found refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, says ASSIST News
Service. After 18 months, Jim and Karen Jacobson became the legal adoptive
parents of eight Karen refugees, setting a new precedence in foreign adoption.  

"It was clear that all of the children wanted us to adopt them,"
says Karen Jacobson. "The goal for them is to be trained and educated to
someday go back and serve the Karen people."

Jim Jacobson's
nonprofit organization, Christian Freedom International (CFI), works
extensively among persecuted Karen Christians in Burma and Thailand. Throughout
the past decade, Jim has helped build schools and medical clinics in the region,
delivering the hope of Christ to a people caught in the midst of a "genocidal

The Karen is a heavily-persecuted Burmese ethnic group. 

Although hundreds of Karen refugees seek shelter in
the United States each year, says ASSIST, the Jacobsons forged a new trail in
adopting refugee siblings. Four kids had been receiving care in Thailand
through CFI, and in the spring of 2008, they arrived in the U.S. A CFI press
release says that a lack of official birth records hindered the Jacobsons'
adoption once the siblings were in America.

"One of the things that makes it very difficult to adopt refugee
children is that there is no certificate of foreign birth; they have no birth
record at all," explained Karen Jacobson. "The only birth records
they have are the ones that have been discovered or researched by the UNHCR
[United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]."

After six months of consideration, a Michigan judge
ruled that the kids' green cards could function as "Other Proof of
Birth," and the adoption process moved forward. During this time, the
Jacobsons applied to adopt another four refugee orphans. When the adoptions
were finalized, each child received a certificate of foreign birth, key to
obtaining a passport or work permit.  

"That was a detail that we knew had to be taken
care of," Karen Jacobson says, "but we didn't know the adoption
[process] would take care of it. That was a real miracle."

Jim and Karen Jacobson now have 12 children and live
in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. As possibly the first American family to adopt
Karen children without foreign birth certificates, the Jacobsons are resolute
in telling other Americans that adoption can be an effective way of providing a
secure and loving home for Burma's refugee children. It can also give kids
easier and quicker access to better education, and even American citizenship.

Click here to learn more about the Jacobsons'
adoption or refugee resettlement. With the help of volunteers, CFI's ministry provides
housing, employment opportunities, transportation, food, and medical
assistance for dozens of Karen refugees who have relocated to the Eastern Upper


  • I am a yooper, originally from escanaba. My husband and I have been living in Phoenix, AZ . I have been assisting refugees with my family and friends for 9 years. I know many Karen refugees and karenis. Being friends with some of the families I am well aware of the challenges as post traumatic stress they have gone through. Your article and your charity was of extreme interest to me. May the Lord bless you and your family.

  • Scott Jansma says:

    My wife and I are expecting our first child. She is a Karen refugee and lived for many years in Umpiem refugee camp in Thailand. I am dead set on adopting a Karen child someday(I tell her a girl because we have a boy coming). At this point it’s just something to think about and I’m wondering what services there are that specialize in Karen adoptions. Thanks so much,

  • Beth Stolicker says:

    Hi Scott,
    I would encourage you to contact CFI directly through this link,

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