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. Dextermorgan

    I wonder if the father was available for comment.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jamballi

    Is this consider a tax break too?

    July 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Good News

      If so, we all just learned a GREAT new way to abuse the system.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angela

      Unless this law says differently, Illinois subsidizes adoptions, meaning parents who adopt their kids get paid. So she is getting paid for having her own kids.

      July 7, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. icrabbidppl

    good for her. i hope she inspires other women and men (fathers).

    July 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • MF

      I agree. Kudos to her! What a hard journey she had but she made it. Nothing short of inspirational! It's nice to see a family reunited! All the best to her!

      July 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Playjojo

      I think it's wonderful. She's already proved herself head and shoulders above most here, most certainly in the brains department!

      July 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lizzy10

    One day at a time.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. someoneelse

    In the end, nothing she ever does will pay society back for what she has taken out of it (just the kids alone was enough of a drain). It would have been better for all had she od'ed before her first kid. And yes, I know, I'm evil, but in truth letting people like this destroy society for all our children is much more evil.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Concerned citizen

      Your malice is also destructive to society. But it is easier to spew venom than have compassion and be understanding.

      July 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      Let's see how much compassion your grand children will have when there is literally not enough water and food in the country for them and no money for pension or healthcare. No Concerned Citizen, you are the hateful one, the one who hates the human race.

      July 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • layo24

      oh please, then by what standards do you deserve to be here more than her or her kids?

      July 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      layo24, do I really need to point it out, or did you not read the article?

      July 8, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sully

    This should not happen. Not with kids. If the parents screw up that bad that they cant get custady in the first place they don`t deserve the chance to ruen the kids lives again.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • MS

      1 I might take your comment more seriously if you knew how to spell ruin.

      2 Parents who have had their kids taken away get them back all of the time. Only the absolute worst offenders lose them permanently (at least in California).

      July 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Good News

      Seven years sober is something most recovering alcoholics can't do, let alone crack cocaine addicts. Maybe you ought to get off your high horse and stop being so judgemental. You know absolutely nothing about this woman or her life other than what is in this article.

      Unless you are going to raise all her children yourself without a tax break I suggest you provide a better solution. Since we all know you can't, it's time to move on.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • victoria

      *custody *ruin
      Thank you.

      July 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shirley

    I was really ready to be disgusted by this story just hearing that she had 11 kids. Then I read on & was really touched. How magnificent her mother must have been to take in all those kids & still have their mom nearby to be in their lives. How great they all banded together to overcome that addiction. Very inspiring.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    So, although these were her children to begin with and someone else bore the burden of raising, she will now receive a $65,000 tax "Refund?"

    Hey Uncle need to raise the ceiling, I found the money you've been looking for!

    July 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. THX

    I'm glad she was able to turn things around and that she can legally adopt back even her adult children. I hope she can help other people do the same, like she wants to.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kim

    How many daddies are involved here and where are they? Sorry but once you have your rights terminated, you should not get them back. What is the point in adopting an adult?

    July 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      I guess your probably the first perfect mother, is that right Kimberly? Do you also visit a building on Sunday that has "Hypocrites" painted on the sides in invisible ink?

      July 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. marie

    With God all things are possible

    July 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      Especially death and destruction!

      July 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Stephanie

    That is awesome! I'm glad she got her act together before it was too late. She can't gain back the time she's lost, but she sure can make a better future for herself and her children. Good luck!

    July 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kerry

    I think its great she has been clean and has had a good relationship with her mother and children. However, what is the point of adopting the children who are adults? Its not like someone can come into the home and take them away from her, they are adults now.

    July 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Henry

    Brought tears to my eyes. Glad she straightened up and got her kids back.

    July 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. K

    I love this story! Good for you Yolanda. Hopefully you can inspire others to do the same. It's so nice to have a real life happy ending!

    July 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
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