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. sew her uterus

    seriously, 4 of her 11 children!!! How many baby daddies in that mix?

    LOL...now she can claim WICK, Welfare and get an adoption credit on her taxes!!! Love this country!!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      See my reply to Jim. I'll bet that you are against abortions too. Hate, hate, hate, it's all you can do.

      July 8, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • melanie

      Did you mean WIC.... aka Women, Infants, and Children?

      July 8, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. deb

    She only adopted FOUR OF HER ELEVEN CHILDREN????????? No wonder they were removed...she was in perpetual LABOR giving birth EVERY NINE MONTHS. Good lord.....I mean really...ever heard of a CONDOM? Just ONE??

    July 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. deb

    OMG.....TEN CRACK BABIES.....has she thanked the tax payers yet for the financial responsibility forced on them?

    July 7, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Have you asked the Lord for mercy lately, instead of saying that you are better than somebody else?

      July 8, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      Elizabeth, he/she is almost definitely a better person, and your lord, if it even exists, is a complete jerk.

      July 8, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    Now she will get a bigger welfare check.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Where is all this hatred coming from? A woman tries to do something for her kids. It says nowhere that she is on welfare; it says that she is counseling crack addicts. I'll bet that you don't want women to get abortions, either. Try to be nice, or at least polite, if you can't be human.

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

      Hey Lizzie, you seem rather hung up on abortion, bringing it up when it doesn't even fit. Either way, for me, I am all for abortion and forced sterilization (and not just extreme cases either). How do you know she is doing it for her kids? How do you not know that she is doing it for that adoption tax break that will disappear next year? I'm just saying neither of you know. And the problem with society is we are TOO polite. We have gone from 'respect everyone's right to an opinion' to 'having to respect everyone's opinion'. Trust me, most peoples' opinions are crap (the average person is not very bright).

      July 8, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. heliocracy

    The real danger of crack? It apparently caused some man to look at that woman and say to himself, "man, I gotta get me some of that." At least ten times. Don't do drugs, kids.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. ApprxAm

    Uhgggg. This woman is a prime reason why the community suffers so much.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Aeroman

      I hope you're kidding...

      July 8, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Was she high on crack when she adopted them? Did the kids want to be adopted?

      July 8, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • auntie em

      Look at the story again.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Angila

    I'm glad this woman got her life back on track and has be reunited with her children, but I am confused as to why or how she's adopting the adult children...

    July 8, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Philip Porembski

    the only way you can put people in jail and prison is if people break the law so you do want people to break the law because you do put people in jail and prison. nobody else wants people to break the law.
    don't tell people not to break the law when you know you want them to break the law in order to put them in jail, thats the only way you can put them in jail is if they break the law.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • auntie em

      What? Did you reread your own rambling? Use punctuation please.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • It Makes Sense

      the only way you can put people in jail and prison is if people break the law so you do want people to break the law because you do put people in jail and prison, nobody else wants people to break the law so don't tell people not to break the law when you know you want them to break the law in order to put them in jail, thats the only way you can put them in jail is if they break the law because you do put people in jail and prison, nobody else wants people to break the law so don't tell people not to break the law when you know you want them to break the law in order to put them in jail, thats the only way you can put them in jail is if they break the law because you do put people in jail and prison, nobody else wants people to break the law so don't tell people not to break the law when you know you want them to break the law in order to put them in jail, thats the only way you can put them in jail is if they break the law.

      Roll Tide.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Madam A

    I am guessing that Jack Jones is a black woman. However, with every negative statistic there are positives. Why didn't he quote the amount of black women who have work in the oval office or who serve in the military? Hmmm it is so easy to use a stereotypical topic and spring board off into negative rhetoric. How about the economic differences in the women who hold degrees of color and that black women are more likely to complete a college degree and become successful? Be positive.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. D. Crockett

    And yet if I even mention sterilization, I get called a Nazi.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. katrina

    I am so happy u have been clean for 7 years and take an active role of parenting. So sorry about your mom but i`m happy someone took your case and u adopted your children that is a blessing. it is sad what u and your family went through.so keep me posted on the adopt of your other five children and take lots of picture at the family reunion. ( keep on helping other mothers who need to be pick up god blessed u in all that u do)

    July 8, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mycology

    This woman should have been sterilized a long long time ago.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • auntie em

      Your mother should have been too.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mycology

    Most importantly – how much welfare money will she now receive for taking on all these children. You know thats her motive.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. chelseykia

    Praise you, Lord, my dearly Beloved, for bringing this woman around!

    I am so inspired by this woman's story, her turnaround came when the Lord just came through for her like that. Where she was heading out to "get high" so to speak, the Lord just stopped her dead, and did an instant 180 turnaround. Where others unfortunately stumbled their way into rehab and suffer, clearly she still had that small part in her heart for Him to respond back, to become one of the Lord's elegant solutions to other addicts everywhere.

    Yes! Go and reach out to the addicts in church – this is what Jesus called you to do: embrace the lost, broken and searching people, for Jesus regarded these "discarded trash of society" as the most beautiful.

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

      You are a moron. Your god didn't save this women, she just believes that crap. This is typical "he saved me" BS. Why her? Why not the millions of other deserving people who need help?

      Also, why is no one asking the most obvious question? If she had 10 kids as a crack addict and cleaned up at 42 years old, why did she decide to have another kid? Also, why is there no mention of this child's father? I guess the story wouldn't be as heart warming should the public know that she went in 50/50 on another fatherless child, this time without crack to blame. Where was your god for that? Don't you people frown on children out of wedlock?

      July 8, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. dave

    does this mean the Michael Vick can get his dogs back, if he takes a dog class. Stupid move.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
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