Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino
Discover How to Be Your Best
The Devine Family

Shannon Devine and her beautiful family

Please meet The Devine Family - Shannon Devine, Mrs United States 2006 and her beautiful family

My husband, Jason and I live in Cherryville, North Carolina near the beautiful majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. We met in high school but didn't officially start dating until our college years. I graduated from Appalachian State University while Jason graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was commissioned upon graduation as an Officer in the United States Air Force. He spent 4 years serving our country. More than a decade has passed and we are FINALLY parents of a beautiful Vietnamese Princess! I am a Musculoskeletal Specialty Manager with Genzyme Biosurgery, one of the world's foremost biotechnology companies dedicated to making a major positive impact on the lives of people with serious diseases. I have received many honors during my career and was Mrs. United States in 2006 but nothing is more precious than being a mother. Jason received the Meritorious Service Award from the President of the United States for his service in Kuwait. Today, Jason is a Masters of Divinity Student at Gardner Webb University and works part-time with AstraZeneca. Together, we are parents to Halle-Grace Khanh Devine!

The meaning of her name…HALLE comes from HALLELUJAH, Grace from God's Grace and with a name like that…she must be a DEVINE! We wanted to keep Khanh as her middle name. The nannies at the orphanage named her Khanh when they found her abandoned. Khanh in Vietnamese means “beautiful gem” and that, she is!

We were advocates worldwide for children, including our daughter who remained institutionalized in the Tuyen Quang province of Vietnam for many months due to red tape. Jason traveled to Capitol Hill to present our story in front of Senators, Congressional leaders/staffers across the country. We are committed to finding forever families for children. We believe ALL children deserve a home, regardless of their nationality. We worked tirelessly to bring Halle-Grace home. Being personally motivated, our goal is not merely to educate others but rather call them to action.

We realized we would become parents through the miracle of adoption early in our marriage, however, at that time we had no idea how many twists and turns the journey would eventually take. The wait was incredibly hard, heartbreaking, and at times, seemed absolutely impossible! After a country change, domestic adoption attempts, we found ourselves adopting the most beautiful tiny miracle from a Northern Province in Vietnam. There were so many obstacles along the way. Our journey was not an easy one, to be honest, it was the most difficult thing we could ever imagine!

Our adoption story began over 2 years ago. Many doors were closed along the way and today we know why…God had us chosen as Halle-Grace's parents. Along the way, at several different times if even one factor would have been different we may not be holding Halle-Grace today and the thought of that makes us both shutter!

Just to give you an idea of the “close calls”. The day our application was received at Carolina Adoption Services (CAS) to adopt from Vietnam (June 2007), CAS closed the Vietnam program! Luckily, we were able to remain in the program only because our application was post marked before that date. We quickly compiled our Dossier and it was logged in Vietnam on September 13, 2007 (the day after Jason donated a kidney to Scott). We were told by our coordinator that we would have a referral of an infant girl, probably 3 months old or younger by November and travel by December…NO later than January 2008 because they didn't want to interfere with TET (the Vietnamese New Year) that takes place in early February. We were so excited and made sure the nursery was ready, had decided on her name and even had clothes in her closet. In November 2008, the USCIS changed the format for I-600 approvals between the United States and Vietnam. What did this mean for us? We would not be traveling in December 2007 or January 2008 and we were now behind a multitude of other families to receive a referral. At that time we were told we would travel by spring of 08.

Just after 8am on March 5, 2008, I was getting ready to walk out the door and received a phone call from our coordinator at CAS. She told me that she was calling to introduce me to our new coordinator. I thought to myself, well that's just GREAT but who cares, I just want my daughter! Then, time stood still as she uttered these words, “Shannon, are you near your computer?” I told her I could be…she continued “We have a beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes who we would like for you and Jason to consider accepting a referral for.”

I will never forget the feeling of excitement! My heart was racing and my hands were shaking so much that I couldn't enter my email account password correctly! When I opened the email and saw the photos of Halle-Grace I saw a glimpse of heaven! I immediately identified her as MY DAUGHTER, not just a baby girl and the tears began to pour down my cheeks landing onto the keyboard. She was the most beautiful baby I had ever laid eyes on. I truly believe God equips adoptive parents with that instinct.

I screamed, “YES, we will adopt her, when can we bring her home?” She answered, “late May or early June but you need to speak with Jason”. Those months came and went and on July 19, 2008, we received heartbreaking news. USCIS had issued a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) which basically said, “go find the birth mother”. 44 other families received the exact same letter that day. We were devastated but knew one thing, not bringing Halle-Grace home was not an option! After months of fighting for our daughter and begging the United States Government to allow us to bring her home, I finally said “enough is enough”. My daughter was now 9 months old and remained institutionalized! I was told if she did not receive a United States Visa, I would have to live outside of the US for two years before I could bring her home. The decision was not hard, I did what any other mom would do for their child. Jason and I boarded a jet plane on August 29, 2008 and adopted Halle-Grace on September 1, 2008 the same day that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the US and Vietnam expired! After 5 weeks of life in Vietnam learning about our daughter's birth country, Halle-Grace received her US Visa on September 30th.

She is definitely our child. People say she looks like her dad but her mannerisms and personality are a lot like mine!

To read more about our journey to our tiny miracle, visit www.ourdevinemiracle.blogspot.com.
More about the Devines:

Shannon started her first adoption support group “the Hot Hens” in June, 2008. She currently serves as a travel liaison for other parents who are completing their adoption from Vietnam. Her plans to begin a Nationwide support group are in place and she will advocate for a new MOU. Shannon would love to someday co-author a book, “The journey to our tiny miracle” that will shed a true light on adoptions. A light that most people will never see nor hear about! Her hopes are to gain awareness in hopes that no one will have to live through the pain, depression and loneliness she endured.

In December the Devines will celebrate 8 years of marriage. The Devines' desire to expand their ministry to waiting families and continue helping orphans around the world, being a “voice” for those who can't speak.

Organ Donation:

They are passionate not only about the miracle of Adoption but also the miracle of life through Organ Donation. Together, we are passionate about improving quality of life and this desire extends far beyond our careers. As advocates for Organ/Tissue Donation we both envision a day when the supply of transplantable organs/tissues meets the demand. We both have been very active in the plight for increasing awareness around organ donation. In addition to being a very worthy cause, it is also a personal one, as my step-mother is in critical need of a liver transplant.

Shannon introduced bill 1372, Organ & Tissue Donation/The Heart Prevails on behalf of Representatives Folwell, Holliman, Clary and Wainwright before the NC House of Representatives and Senate urging members to change N.C. from a state of intent to one of consent. The bill was signed by Governor Easley and went into effect on October 1, 2007 making one's final wishes legally binding.

Organ/Tissue Donation is truly a family affair for the Devines. Shannon was named the Organ Donation Spokesperson for Team Donate Life, Jason, cycled across America. Together, they raised nationwide awareness for Organ Donation. Shannon also coordinated a living donor seminar honoring Scott Thornburg. Because of her efforts, Jason learned he was a perfect match and donated a kidney to Scott on September 12, 2007. Shannon is a trained speaker through Transplant Speakers International and a volunteer with LifeShare Of The Carolinas. She served as the logistical/fundraising coordinator for the 5th Annual Collier Lilly Ride 4 Life.

"Together, we are passionate about improving quality of life."