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Emily Burns Miss Missouri

Adoption: God’s Perfect Plan

An Interview with America World Adoptive Mom Debbie Burns

Meet Emily Burns! Steve and Debbie Burns adopted her in 2006 when she was 12 months old through our China program. She is now 19, and she has blossomed into a gorgeous young woman who has held many pageant titles, including Miss Missouri! She uses her pageant platform to provide toothbrushes to orphanages, and she has sent 5,000 toothbrushes to China, Africa, and India so far through her initiative, Project Smile.

As you know, we love to hear how our adoptees are doing, so we interviewed Emily’s mom, Debbie, so we could share this story with you!

Why did you decide to adopt?

Steve, Debbie, and Emily BurnsWe began our adoption journey in the fall of 2004. A family in our community was in the process of adopting from China, and we were very interested once we heard about their plan. We searched for an international adoption agency, and America World was scheduled to present an informational meeting close to our hometown. We registered to attend. After attending the meeting, we knew that it was God’s perfect plan for us to travel to China and adopt a little girl.

Our Emily was born on March 12, 2005, in Anhui, China. We received our referral in January 2006.  Once we saw Emily’s sweet little face, we could not wait to travel to her and bring her home.  Our entire trip was amazing. Everything went very smoothly. Emily immediately bonded with us and adjusted very well to her new home.

Our experience with America World was wonderful. They were very supportive throughout the entire process.

What has life after adoption been like?

We were blessed with a healthy and happy little girl. We have enjoyed every season of her life. She has been such a blessing. We could not imagine life without her. God’s hand of protection was on Emily from the very beginning of her life. It is truly a miracle that we were blessed with such a special gift from halfway around the world.

How did she get involved in pageants?

Emily BurnsEmily began competing in pageantry when she was five years old. She has won several state titles and has had the opportunity to compete on a national and international level. Pageantry has been a positive influence in Emily’s life. She has gained poise, self-confidence, valuable communication skills, and many life-long friendships through her pageant journey. She has also been able to share her personal story of adoption across the country through spokesmodel competitions.

Tell us about her initiative, Project Smile.

Community service has been an important part of Emily’s life. Emily has always had a heart for service. She created Project Smile after learning that children in orphanages did not have toothbrushes of their own and many times had to share. This initiative has allowed her to collect and donate over 5,000 toothbrushes worldwide. She has sent toothbrushes to China, Africa, and India. Her most special donation was to the orphanage where she was adopted. Emily enclosed a special translated note to the orphanage explaining her donation of toothbrushes.

What else is Emily up to?

Emily currently attends the University of Missouri-Columbia Honors College.  She is majoring in Journalism and hopes to one day become a broadcast journalist. Emily is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority.

Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story with us, Debbie! Emily’s America World family is so proud of everything she has achieved, and we look forward to seeing how she will continue to make a difference in the world in the future. We are grateful to be a part of God’s perfect plan for your family.

What about you?

Is adoption part of God’s perfect plan for you? Visit our Learn About Adoption page or read about our adoption programs.

Contact us at, and we’d love to help you with your next step!

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