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.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/crime/2011/07/07/dnt.woman.adopts.own.kids.WLS"%5D

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. Charles

    She can now claim adoption tax credit . Stupido........

    July 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Wow, if that is the only thing you took away from this article then I really feel sorry for you.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      Good point. I am happy she is no longer on crack, but eleven kids. OMG!!!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      Oh. Ten kids. Still... OMG!!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Douglas

    I stop reading here. "Miller had ten children while she was addicted to crack cocaine."

    Why would they let her?

    July 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • WJ

      Because, while you need a license for anything, anyone is allowed to squeeze out a child and take it home.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      Gosh, how could they stop her? You must live in some fantasy totalitarian regime in your head.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gbird

      Had you continued reading you'd have found out she's been clean for 14 years. Her mother had legal custody, she's been maintaining a job and living next door to her kids. Her mother died in 2005 & her kids moved in with her. Unless she became their legal guardian again, they might have gotten taken away and put into foster care. Never underestimate people's capacity for positive change.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • siqiniq

      Who do you mean by "they"?

      July 8, 2011 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kent Bowen

    Nancy Grace is a clown...a joke...quickly becoming an irrelevant sidebar.

    BAN the NAN...

    July 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Augutine

    Why does it not surprise me that you are stupid?

    July 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jack Jones

    Actually my tested IQ is over 130 and I have a MS degree. I just call them as I see them. the statisics I read is the black woman have a significant higher rate of unwed parantage and druge abuse. it is a racist statement but true.

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

      Did your MS teach you how to spell "statistics" or "parentage"?

      July 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kerri

      Clearly not. Nor does a high IQ give some people a clue about the real world apparently.

      July 8, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      Your degree is obviously not in grammar – and you are racist.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • yankee fan

      Mr. Jones, there is no way you have a Master's Degree. No one that educated could possibly write so poorly. "The statistics I read is the..." – should be "The statistics I read are that...." I won't trash your various misspellings, but anyone with a Master's Degree would proofread. Surely you had to do that in college, didn't you?

      July 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Winnie

      Believe it or not I worked with an HR manager of a Fortune 500 company whose grammar was worse than a 5th grader's! It was amazing & ridiculous! His wife did all his homework and he was passed because of his ethnicity.

      August 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      Over 130? You may wish to add in which test variant you took, as they have different maximum scores. It is much more effective to use your percentile score, which should also be listed on your results. Honestly, your score means little without these additional pieces of information.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • ezikial

      Jack, seriously... If you actually had a high IQ and a college degree you wouldn't waste yoru time replying to this blog. Idiot.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      You do realize that unless you were tested as a young child around 6 years of age, your IQ score is far from accurate. There are no IQ tests for adults, so if you took one, of course it would be high, you're being compared to 6 year olds.

      July 8, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I don't know if your statement is correct or not. I do know that I was tested in Kindergarten and was told my score. I took an online version in my 30's out of boredom and was very surprised that they were exactly the same...to the number.

      July 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • malasangre

      i q tests only measure ability to learn and retreats basically only thru aging or abuse/accident. on the other hand "stupid is as stupid does"

      July 12, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • melanie

      Jack you are an idiot.....just goes to show that because one has a degree does not mean that he/she has common sense. I wonder how many black women you interact with on a day to day bases with that stupid thought running through your senseless mind.

      July 8, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      If you had even an iota of intelligence, you would recognize that while those statistics are true, there is a much greater correlation between socio-economic factors than by race and that race (black in this case) is not linked with causation in any real way (as there have been no genetic factors proved to cause things like this, unless you have a major study no one has ever heard of).

      July 8, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Actually my tested IQ is over 130 and I have a MS degree <~ LOL you do know how foolish you sound right? I am racist too and I agree black women F up with their kids more then white women but your IQ is NOT 130... 140 is genius and thats far from you. So you have a Master of Science Degree In Psychology? LOL your so full of it

      July 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deee

      You rave about your MS and you said "parantage".

      July 8, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      It's not racism if it's always true, like in the case of statistical relation.

      July 10, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Whenever I read news articles about crimes more often than not it seems to involve a specific race. So I decided to check out the stats. You know what, the crime stats I looked at weren't much higher for black males committing violent crimes than white males. Since there are a lot more black men in prison I was really shocked. I am white and whilst I agree that there are some really bad problems at certain economic levels across all races, and I think the ghetto/rap culture is an insult to black people quite frankly (just as the tatoo reality shows etc are an insult to people of all races) I do wonder how much of this perception is influenced by media reporting; for example, look at the guy (white) who killed all those people at the pharmacy in upstate New York – it got some coverage for a couple of days but has now disappeared. How many violent crimes are committed by drug-addicted whites? I think we probably need a bit more balanced reporting. As for the lady in the article, yes she shouldn't have kids if she is on crack but as others pointed out, she probably had them before she hit rock bottom (whence them going to live with her mother). Also, I think she has done tremendously well quitting her addiction. God bless her and I hope she keeps well. We need to start treating drug addiction as the problem it is – a very serious illness – I wouldn't wish that on anyone. We also really need to start looking at why so many people are stupid enough to do drugs with so much information out there about how destructive they are.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. DC

    New York has a somewhat similar law that was recently passed... it allows for parents whose rights have been terminated to regain custody under certain conditions. It's easy for people who don't deal with child welfare to make fun of this type of situation but it's a much needed reform.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jodiq

    Yolanda Miller, you're one heck of a lady. You turned your life around and put your family back together. You go, girl!

    July 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • I AM XDOW AND YOU ARE NOT

      U Go Girl doesn't mean she is to have more babies does it? I think she's too old now. Or at least I hope so.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Candice

    Wow Jack, for someone with a MS degree (wow! I'm impressed!) and a whole headful of statistics about black women, I'm shocked that you even have to wonder aloud why the woman's race did not surprise you. Unless you recieved a Master of the Obvious degree? Can you tell us some more about what doesn't surprise you? It lets us know how smart you are!

    July 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. el_gran

    JJ, you are just the highest IQ scored stupid!!

    July 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Arial

    But that doesn't mean that women of other colors don't have the same history. Having a MS degree and a high IQ doesn't mean that you aren't ignorant. Maybe, you make a racist statement because you are racist? If so, that explains your statement.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. camiwa

    Clearly, you missed the point of being educated, or you would have:
    a) realized the statement was unnecessary, or
    b) made the comment in a way that actually reflected your education. I will admit, you had that in your second comment, but I would never have guessed you were educated by your first.

    Anyone can get degree these days. However, you can always tell quality. Quality means that even when you're anonymous, people can tell you have a degree.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    Regardless of the color of the Lady's skin, she has accomplished something grand in kicking a severely addictive habit and in trying to get back to living a decent, productive life. This is something to be glad of, regardless of her past faults. Why would they let her have 10 children? Jeez, I don't know, because we don't monitor nor is it necessary to be legally qualified to give birth? At least... last I checked it wasn't. Maybe things have changed.

    What is surprising to me, is that she overcame an ugly situation and has risen to become something more than what she could have easily remained. I will not kick someone who has been down for so long and is now up. I applaud her wholeheartedly and tip my hat.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • forreal89

      I have a grand idea grow up and raise your kids

      July 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Jones

      She has accomplished a lot and improved her life. I do wish her and her kids the best.

      July 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. forreal89

    My god when can these people just raise their kids without reviewing and trying different laws. People just raiser your kids and grow up. We are in trouble.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Amy Dover

    Pay no attention to Mr. Jones and his comments. They were only designed to take away the glory and the beauty of this story. Yollanda Miller has my utmost respect! The only wrongs are the ones that we as people do not try to make right.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim

    Now you know why America's going bankrupt..

    July 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      While I agree that human population on earth is exceeding earth's resources, at the same time the people who complain about "welfare moms" etc. are the ones who don't want any women to have abortions. So, when the children are born, you publicly criticize these innocent children for the rest of their lives. If you believed in anything other than making other people miserable, you would apologize.

      July 8, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
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