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. Macbeth

    All I know, she was a hoe.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tyroy Ronte'

    Wuz up Yolanda. U is a fine shawty. lemme axe u sumfin. how bouts we make it a dozen chilrin? nomesayin?

    July 8, 2011 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. D Grant

    All I know, she was a h0!

    July 8, 2011 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. larry

    Good Story! Inspirational for other people who have lost their children because of drugs, alcoholism , mental health and other addictions. It's never too late to be reunited with family!

    July 8, 2011 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
    • siqiniq

      Mental health is an addiction? I never knew!

      July 8, 2011 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. livefromabudhabi

    As an upper middle class white male, I just have one obvious question for this heart warming story...

    How much did this cost me? 20 years of smoking rocks and having grandma support the children? Who was paying for that? I highly doubt her mother was living in a neighborhood in [presumably] South Chicago where here daughter could continue her addiction if she wasn't depending on the government to pay for food and essentials.

    Even if the lawyer volunteered her services, she still tied up public servants for a technicality? Finally, they never mention her having a job, a husband, and she has popped out another kid? This is still costing me money. There should be mandatory IUD's for women with one or more illegitimate children receiving support from the government (ie. my paycheck.)

    July 8, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. ShowThemTheWay

    This is a Happy story... If this woman can turn her life around so can many others. Society shouldn't turn it's back on drug addicts the way it does... One of America's biggest problems is drug addiction. This story will give a lot of people hope, but it will also scare a lot of people... Be it God's will these drug addicts, most of whom are highly intelligent get off drugs and help make this country and the world for that matter a better place to live. I'm so proud of this woman... I hope she is blessed for the rest of her days!!!

    July 8, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. James

    This is why adoption of an unwanted child is near impossible in the US. I was adopted and have always wanted to return the favor, but every agency I go to, including the one that handled mine, tries to send me to africa, asia or the eastern block. That's because of parents, who should never of had kids in the first place, give them up, abandon them or are forced to give them up, then someone else raises them and welcomes them into a family and then these degenerates come back later and try to get them back. You have to have a license for a pet but any idiot can have a child. Its ridiculous. This is not a step forward at all... You just further hurt the chances of every abandoned child of finding a home and further extended every "lost" child's unrealistic wish... that there real mommy's and daddy's will come back and save them... its so rare an occurence its ridiculous. Nice going Chicago!

    July 8, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • kelle

      I totally agree. plus what about the family that did raise your baby. The difference is that these children were raised by the biological grandmother next door to the biological mother, although she wasnt a positive presentence in their lives they knew who she was and she always had the opportunity to get them back. But in most other cases especially where the child(ren) were taken from the parent they are not local (in same city, state and definately not living next door) and the family has had the child(ren) most likely since birth, why tear the child(ren) away from who they can depend on and know, not very fair at all to the child(ren)...

      July 8, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      You should have read the article.
      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.

      July 8, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      agree agree agree

      July 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joshua

    "Miller had ten children while she was addicted to crack cocaine."

    No doubt over-burdened taxpayers picked up the tab. Disgusting sow.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Ivan Libya

      Totally agree!

      July 8, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      You have no compassion.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Annoyed

      It's not about compassion. There is little doubt that this woman was a drain on society.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaili

      To Joshua:

      I agree. 10 kids!! Really,come on already!!

      July 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. James

    ... and she adopts them in their late teens and mid 20's, when they are already pretty much grown. Their value's are instilled already and they can fend for their own in society... this is a ridiculous sham

    July 8, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Mizz.Givens

      James, I think if nothing else, the mom adopting her children, grown or not, says, "I want you enough to go to extreme lengths to have you back." She knows she made a huge mistake, they know it, everybody knows it. Many parents just walk away for good, and she's telling them she loves them. Why is that horrible? (And yes, there are a lot of horrible things about this situations, a lot of damage that can't be undone.)

      July 8, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      In this particular case, according to the story and the video clip embedded, she was involved with their lives even when she was still using drugs. She lived next door to them and spent time with them as they were growing up. The bigger question, however, is why this law change was deemed advisable given she ALREADY could have adopted her children under the old law. Personally, I don't think it is advisable to fast track adoptions by a parent who was already proven to be unfit at an earlier point in his/her life simply because he/she is the biological parent of a child. If they can't show a judge that they have resolved whatever issues resulted in them losing their parental rights and that they are now capable of undertaking the responsibilities of being a parent, then do we really want to hand their children back to them?

      July 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kelle

    As we are looking to adopt a newborn baby, i believe that id be truly hurt and concerned if the mother came back in the child's teens to possibly get her/him back. How much hurt is really inside the child(ren) and could they really get pass the fact that you, the child(ren) were taken or given up. Not every child is forgiving, especially if they have been blessed with a stable, productive life that you, their parent had nothing to do with. Im sure all of their hopes n dreams of Mommy, coming back are far gone by their teen years. There has to be a particular amount of time that the Division of Family and Youth stay in the picture to ensure that the transition is a positive one for the child(ren)...We have way too many unbalance youth in our society already. think about them before you attempt to do some thing like this...

    July 8, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Ledia

      It's my understanding that this is for blood relatives who pass away only. THis doesn't apply to your case, I don't think, so I don't think you should be worried. The best of luck to your new family!

      July 8, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Annoyed

    This is why we are so freaking stupid; there are crack addicts having 10+ kids, while doctors, lawyers and other professionals may have only 1 or 2 children.

    July 8, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Teshaun

    she had TEN children while addicted on crack cocaine ?!?!?! TEN ??!?!?!?!?! TEEEEEEEEEN !!!!???????????????????

    July 8, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Enough

    Yes, adopt the kids back at a time that you will be no longer financial liable for them, after the state has picked up the tab. Heart warming.

    July 8, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dave

    In Illioinois you get paid approx $1500 per month per child adopted, so grandma was making a lot of money while her crackhead daughter was dropping those kids.

    Now she will adobt her minor kids back, and be paid about $1500 per kid.

    I wish I was a tax payer in Illionois, so I could feel like I am making a contribution to her plan.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. NewIllinoisAdoptionLaw

    Adoption Laws in Illinois are changing.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
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