Chicago mother first to adopt her own children under new law
Yolanda Miller speaking at Tuesday's news conference in Chicago.
July 7th, 2011
01:11 PM ET

Chicago mother first to adopt her own children under new law

A Chicago woman has become the first person to adopt her own children under a recent Illinois law that she  inspired.

The law, passed in 2009, allows for parents who have lost custody of their children to rehabilitate themselves and regain it, in the event that the adoptive parent is a blood relative and passes away. Lawmakers said they were unaware of similar laws elsewhere.

Two weeks ago Yolanda Miller, 49, adopted four of her 11 biological children, who range in age from their late teens to mid-20s.

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Miller had ten children while she was addicted to crack cocaine. Her mother adopted the children when they were born, and Miller lived next door to the rest of her family. One day in 1997, Miller just stopped using crack for good. She had been heading out the door to get high, when she said she was suddenly immobile.

“I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak,” she said. “I knew it was God stopping me in my tracks. I said, ‘If you give me another chance, I’ll never smoke another rock again.’ ”

She went over to her mother’s house and said, “Mom, I quit.”

To start anew, the family moved to a different neighborhood and lived in a similar setup, with Miller next door to her mother and her children. Though she had always been visible in her children’s lives, getting clean allowed Miller to take an active parenting role.

“I stepped in,” Miller said. “I stepped up. I got my life back in order and my children were there for me the whole time.”

In 2005, Miller’s mother died. Miller had her children move in with her, but since she wasn’t their legal guardian, she “knew anybody at any time could take them away from me.”

Seven years sober, Miller was the natural choice to be her children’s caretaker, but regaining custody meant one judge would have to override the previous decisions to take it away, said Linda Coon, Miller’s lawyer and the chairwoman for the Chicago Bar Association’s legislative subcommittee for adoption law.

When she took on the case, Coon said she wanted to establish a process for Miller’s specific situation so that the outcome would not have to depend upon how willing a judge was to change a previous decision.

“I am not aware of another state that has this,” Coon said. “There must be a growing recognition of this problem. There are kids whose parents are really willing and able to take them back.”

Coon said she hopes to establish a program in which volunteer attorneys help parents in similar situations to Miller’s.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz sponsored the bill Coon drafted in the Illinois state legislature. It was passed in May 2009.

Feigenholtz has been central to Illinois adoption legislation, which she said is “very progressive.”

“I believe that overall there is a great interest in progressive policies and common-sense laws,” Feigenholtz said.

Miller officially adopted her two eldest daughters, 24-year-old twins, and the two who are still minors.

The newly adopted family, along with grandchildren, discussed the new law Tuesday at a press conference covered by CNN affiliate WLS.

"I know what we went through. But we're blessed. It's loving, it's strong. It's happy. We're happy. We're all happy. We always wanted to be with my mom," said eldest daughter Rachelle Pouncey.

Since becoming sober, Miller has had one child whom she never lost. Her other children, now grown up, live in various cities in Illinois and Wisconsin. She plans to adopt the five additional adult children as soon as they can all be in the same place at the same time for a family reunion of sorts in court.

“I’ve always believed that I was going to get my children back once I got my life back together,” she said at the press conference.

Miller said several other mothers have talked to her in the past few days. She said she talks to women struggling with addiction constantly, “in church (and) on the street.” She said she wants to help other mothers who need to pick themselves up.

“I know what’s down the end of that tunnel,” she said. “There’s no light.”

Miller said her mother and her children were the inspiration she needed to recover.

“Even in my addiction, I knew my kids loved me,” she said. “I chose to live because I had my children to live for.”

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Filed under: Illinois
soundoff (456 Responses)
  1. Tiffany

    Great idea. Anyone who has lost custody of their chlildren should go through a butt sticking process to get them back.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. stephen

    This isn't the only law on adoption that's changing. A new Illinois law allows adult adopted persons born in Illinois to request non-certified copies of their original birth certificates through the Illinois Department of Public Health. Birth parents of adopted persons born after January 1, 1946, may request that their names be deleted from this non-certified copy and should do so by November 1, 2011 to ensure anonymity . For more information please go to

    July 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Yasmin Vatter

    A wonderful story of hope and redemption. Congratulations to the family for forgiving their mother and the mother for finally being the woman her mother raised her to be.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Huge Shaft

    four of her 11 biological children... Hummm and how many daddys contributed to this tribe.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Likely, none who paid child support or were there for their children.

      Why do YOU care?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wat

      No no no sorry we aren't going to play the non-support paying dad card here. That didn't stop her from having, let's count, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 children. Her mom adopting some and her adopting some back has state, local and federal aid written all over it. We all know birth control is far cheaper than crack cocaine. We paid for all of this mess. And I'm a liberal.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      We care because we probably paid for their up bringing. DUH.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      And if she would have pleaded to be sterlized after, say #5 or #10, the State would have flat refused. My friend has been an HIV counselor for many years and she's had crack addicted clients who've given birth to up to 8 crack-addicted babies. These women had lost custody of all their previous children and wanted to be sterlized and were refused until they gave birth to babies with HIV. I believe that the thinking is that they may come back later and sue the State for taking away their right to procreate, so instead the State continues to pay for them to give birth to more drug-addicted children who usually have to be placed in foster care.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tim

    I am just guessing here but I am pretty sure that is not her real hair color.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huge Shaft

      ya think?

      July 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elmo

      oh well that is the important part. nit

      July 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      That has what to do with the point of biological parental adoption?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AnotherDayAnotherDollar

    How many baby daddies involved and what has been the cost to the state and federal government. Enough of the touchie/feelie. She's a slug.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Wonder if she is eligible for federal payments for parent(s) who adopt?? Why not go for all 11 children. Mo money!!

      July 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Veronica13

    I'm happy for this family.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JT

    Ridiculous. She will relapse in no time.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • monkeymama

      Really? She's been sober for 14 years, and has been caring for them since her mother passed away six years ago.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      14 years sober.... yep, that's a clear indication she'll relapse in "no time at all."

      July 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Linda - St. Louis, MO

    It's so nice that the whole family is "so happy". What has she contributed to society? How much has her addiction and selfishness cost the United States and taxpayers? You cannot tell me that a woman who didn't work most of her life can financially or emotionally support 12 children. How much Welfare/Food Stamps/Medicaid/Court Costs have been paid out because of her sheer irresponsibility? And you can't put a price on the emotional drama she inflicted upon her mother and her children. Kids might forget/forgive, but the rest of America has to keep on paying! What a leech upon society. I sure hope her 12 kids don't turn out to be leeches like her. I would like to see just how much, financially, this woman's life cost the various gov't agencies. Since taxpayer's paid for her lifestyle, should we be allowed to know just how much her choices cost us?

    July 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • AnotherDayAnotherDollar

      Total agreement

      July 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bre - Orange County, CA

      I agree with your first statement. It is truly fortunate that out of these terrible beginnings, this family has finally found happiness. Though it is possibly not true for this woman, so many men and women throughout our country (and the world) are driven to drug use (which can quickly lead to addiction) as a means to cope with their unbearable upbringings/living situations/family situations, etc. as it is often the only thing that offers a numbing of excruciating pain which obviously you and several others would rather not recognize as central to their lives.
      There is NO MENTION in this article of this woman’s contributions to society. It upsets me to see such a lack of compassion for people who have triumphed over their addictions, all in the name of your greed. Understandably, nobody wants to pay to support somebody who is selfish or irresponsible. But I would challenge you to imagine that this woman was neither, though I’m sure it makes it easier for you to whine about losing money than it does to empathize with a struggling fellow human being. Before you are so quick to judge, why don’t you do some reading up on the challenges of growing up in the inner city, and the negative cycles of addiction that plague these communities–not because of selfishness or irresponsibility, but because of poverty, discrimination, and lack of opportunity.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - St. Louis

      How can a crack-head, who bore 10 children, while ON DOPE, who was also deemed so unfit as to lose her children, over-and-over again, not be, in the absolute very least, IRRESPONSIBLE? She is the definition of a selfish, irresponsible woman. She put her choice of drugs over her children and their well-being – over-and-over-and-over. It is that plain and simple. You can "fluff" up your happy story all you want, it's leeches like her that have dragged our country into shame (nothing like 11 childrend w/no Daddies) and financial and moral bankruptcy. IF YOU CAN'T FEED 'EM, DON'T BREED 'EM! Even animals in the wild understand that concept. Povery, discrimination and lack of opportunity didn't make her do drugs – she CHOSE to do drugs. DUH. Her mother had the werewithal to take care of the 10 kids AND a crack-head daughter. She CHOSE not to be responsible for so she could smoke her crack! If she wasn't able to clean up for her kids, she should have gotten herself sterilized! It's called INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY. Then again, if she understood that, she wouldn't have been a crack-head, baby-breeding leech.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - St. Louis

      And BRE – I lived/and still live in St. Louis City (in the inner city). Daddy (yeah, mine WAS around) taught me that DRUGS ARE BAD and EDUCATION is the way out. We were held accountable for our behavior. Either you're saying that this woman's mother was a bad parent or you're just making excuses for a woman who CHOSE drugs and to keep spreading her legs for it! Either way, this woman has lived off the system and the system has had to support her bad choices and all her kids. Glad she's "off drugs" but I'd bet she's now on Social Security and "can't work". Sorry, I'm not the only taxpayer tired of supporting druggies and their children. Where are the Daddies and what have they contributed?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • schuyler

      Bre, thank you for a kind and compassionate perspective.

      Linda, I personally do not want my tax dollars going to slugs either- you know, the ones who spend ALL DAY making HORRIBLE comments that show a COMPLETE lack of empathy, compassion, intelligence, or APPROPRIATE USE OF CAPITALIZATION.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - St. Louis

      schuyler – Don't worry, I'm not a multiple-child bearing, crack-ho with no respect for myself, my children, or society. Your tax dollars are safe. I work almost every day. We support our own family by working for a living. We don't have any gov't assistance coming into our home. In fact, we are ineligble for Medicaid, Welfare, Food Stamps, Sect 8 housing or even Educational Assistance because we "earn too much" even though we are barely middle class. We believe you get out of life what you put into it (and I don't mean some stranger's sperm and the baby that follows). We're not interested in leeching off society. We actually CONTRIBUTE (ie pay taxes, give money to charities and actually work for charities). Sorry if you can't understand those concepts and expect so little from other human beings. We do what we can to make the world a better place and be responsible for our actions. Sorry that disturbs you so. And if you can't understand "making a point" by using CAPS, well, bummer.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Respect

    What a surprise, she's from Chicago. The next cesspool of the Midwest after Detroit.

    I live 20 minutes from downtown and I loathe the stench and stink that floats from that place. That city has ruined so many things for so many people.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Just Me

    How do you adopt an adult?

    July 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coaster

      You have to fill out the right paperwork. I'm sure if you figured out how to hit the reply button, you couple figure out how to copy/paste that into google. It happens more than you think, it just isn't usually newsworthy.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    She just wanted them back because that would mean a bigger welfare check.

    July 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • hello

      why don't you people read the article...only two are still minors the rest are adults so she won't be collecting welfare for them.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JTSJ17

      Read the article moron!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coaster

      Seriously? She's been supporting them for the last six years without the adoption process. If the welfare money were so important, I think she would have been applying the day after her mother was in the ground....DON'T YOU?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bree

    I think that's a wonderful story! It takes a lot for someone to come out of a situation like that, and to want to change. Congratulations to the family for sticking together, and to the kids for being there for your mother and giving her the hope and love that she needed! 🙂

    July 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Baseballguy2001

    Wow, 11 kids, no wonder she was high for years. And where is the father? (s)

    July 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tony

    you can certainly tell she's not on the crack now

    July 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
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