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. vhdklasfvlfdnv

    11 different kids...probably with 9 different guys too. As others have said, what a drain on society.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Me

    Wow 11 kids!

    July 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. edo

    I'll have her. (I'm kinda into older ones) and then her melons.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • edo

      She needs me. Financially and physically.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. forreal89

    My lord these ghetto folks not taking care of their kids then being praised for readoption. She should be ashamed for losing the kids in the first place. People when you have kids grow up and take care of them.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. forreal89

    what a waste of time and effort. The money to readopt her kids could have went to helping the homeless ghetto

    July 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. devore504 go to this link and I wish people would learn to read

    July 8, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NYC123

    Aside from personal attacks on certain comment posters and grammar, aside from allegations of racism (the roots of which may be in statistics – doesn't matter), does anyone else have a problem with the fact that a woman addicted to crack had 10 children while she was using? TEN children while addicted to crack. I know this country is all about individual rights but, good grief, this situation seems to embody the extreme – AND at the cost of tiny individuals who had no say in the matter. Good for this mother for getting her life on track. Shame on everyone for allowing 10 children to be born to her while she was using crack.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teresa

      I did wonder about that, 10 crack babies born to one woman.

      July 8, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • keepItReal

      where does it say that she was an addict while PREGNANT with all 10 kids? I didnt see that part... oh I guess cause it dosent say that.. an asumption is not needed nor is it wanted. Can we deal with facts... she had kids became an addict got it together and is CLEAN..

      July 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mel

      where does it say that she was an addict while PREGNANT with all 10 kids?

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

      July 10, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Victoria

      Totally agree! Where does it say she was pregnant and on Crack. People stop reading in between the lines!

      July 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb


      July 13, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Debrap424

      you are a fool if you believe that someone who is addicted to crack completely stopped each time she got pregnant (obviously often)

      July 14, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Robin

      "Miller had ten children while she was addicted to crack cocaine."
      Taken from the article. It's highly unlikely she stopped doing crack during those pregnancies. The article also states: "Since becoming sober, Miller has had one child whom she never lost."
      It's called reading comprehension. One can very easily infer that she was addicted to crack and had those 10 children while on crack.
      Regardless, she is a waste of oxygen and organs.

      July 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ynotgetalong

      How would you propose to stop it? Forced sterilization or forced abortions? There really aren't a lot of easy answers....either answer is going to have someone up in arms about personal freedoms and or/killing babies. Thank god there was a stable adult in the picture to take care of the kids at the time.

      July 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually its pretty clear that most if not all of them were born while she was addicted. It also goes a long way to explaining 10 pregnancies.

      "Miller had ten children while she was addicted to crack cocaine. Her mother adopted the children when they were born,"

      Her mother(Grandma) adopted them when they were born. She would not have been adopting them if the mother was not addicted at the time.

      July 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • cassie

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

      July 25, 2011 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Laura A.

      I was with NYC123 until they posted that shame on the rest of us for allowing this to happen (paraphrasing). Exactly what should the "rest of us" do? Stand in front of the oncoming sperm? We don't force people to sterilize themselves in this country, and that argument is for some other day. What is absurd about this entire matter is that the State of Illinois is completely broke. We don't have enough money for people who are taking care of themselves, but we go to the trouble to pass legislation to benefit former addicts, who made incredibly poor choices, affecting dozens and costing taxpayers countless amounts? This woman caused her own problems and, I am sure, has not paid back dime one for all of her legal counsel, guardianship for her children...NOTHING. Her fault, but yet the rest of us should be ashamed for letting this happen to her? What is wrong with people?

      August 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jc

    As for the oppressed haters who thinks the world owes them something in 2011 because of 1953.....we know that you know its over now. enough said.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tiffany Brewer

    My name is Tiffany Brewer and I live in Tacoma, Washington and I lost custody of my daughter about 7 years ago to CPS in Seattle, Wa. I have Mental Health Issues and the system abused me and took advantage of my illness and refused to give me a fair chance to get Asiauna back. She was sent off to Louisville, Ky to my sister to be adopted and now Asiauna is back in the CPS system. My sister doesn't want her back and is signing over all her parental rights. Now i volunteered to sign my rights over to give her a better life and instead she was put back in the CPS System and since i am no longer considered family or her guardian or parent anymore they don't even want to talk to me or send her back to me even though i am her bio-logical mother and I have been going to therapy and taking my medicine and I have a 7 month old daughter named LIly and she wasn't taken from CPS nor did they get involved at birth. I love both of my girls and i just did what I thought was best for Asiauna and now it's came to hurt her more in the end I would like advice even legal advice on what I can do or could do to get her back or have a say so on where she could be placed to be in a safe and loving home. Don't we both deserve a second chance???

    July 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robbie

      You might want to tell these dear people the whole truth. You did not give up custody you made us fight you in court for 2 1/2 years during which time our daughter was forced to endure multiple moves and at times unbelievable additional traumas. Even if you find someone to assist you in your hopes to reunite you I believe that you mentioned to me that your present boyfriend who supports you wants nothing to do with your former child.
      I told you before she does need things from you. She needs you to write down her story. She does not need you mucking around in her life. She will come to you when/if she is able to handle it. But it has never been about her for you. It is as always all about you. Good luck with that.

      July 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brenda

    I just want to say that I am happy for ms miller and im a young mother who has lost custody of my 3kids in 2005 cause of being in a abusive relationship but im glad to know that there is hope for me again and with god all things are possible through him. Im 26yrs now and im in school for nursing assistant soon to be done the end of sept2011. This has really touch me and im preparing myself to regain custody for my kids as well. I reside in miami, fl

    July 9, 2011 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. orangejewls

    Hey, Mr. Jones...I'll trump you with my doctorate, and say that there are all sorts of structural reasons present in our society, including over a century of grinding post-slavery poverty and overt and implict exclusion to Americans of different races from gainful educational and occupational opportunities. If you were interested, that research is out there: there are a number of databases that include vast studies demonstrating the effects of nearly three centuries of racially-exclusive slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, etc., and that those effects will take longer than a mere four decades to overcome–as your comments blatantly evidence. Start with the fact that African American women on average earn about 61 cents for every dollar that a white male earns (white women are toppin' out at 77 cents, and these numbers have been adjusted for comparability in training, education, and experience).

    By the way, whites and blacks use drugs at roughly comparable levels per capita, though because of income disparities, different races use/abuse different drugs–and go to jail at far, far different rates. These numbers are also somewhat skewed because of the questionable status of many marijuana laws in the U.S. You should try reading the actual research, rather than just reading the statistics, which any researcher knows only tell part of the story.

    July 9, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • orangejewls

      ETA: good for Ms. Miller for getting her life together. Instead of disparaging her past, we should celebrate the opportunities she has just opened up for herself, and for her children. Congrats!

      July 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Name*adam

    Good law,for the mom keep it up

    July 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matt

    After I get strung out I'll move there too so that I can adopt my grown children and get on their insurance! That or so collectively we can get more WIC or I can claim them on my tax returns again... Who doesn't have grown dependents? Ridiculous.

    July 11, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. confused

    How did she adopt 24 year olds? Once you turn 18 you're legally an adult. I didn't know you could adopt adults. In that case, I'd like to adopt a cute old grandpa.

    July 14, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • TinKnight

      Adoption of adults used to be quite common. Today, the primary reason to adopt a healthy adult is to establish a parent-child relationship that is legally binding in courts. Thus, if the mother were to pass away, any inheritance (likely meager in this case, but still) would pass on to her legally-adopted children. It also establishes end-of-life & end-of-care custodies, in case the mother or the children were to be terminally-ill or otherwise incapable of consenting to treatment.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Presenter of Truth

    The out of Africa Theory
    Although every single Caucasian on the planet will probably try murder you on site if you mentioned this to them nonetheless it's the truth. Okay, it all started in a hot place near the equator called Africa that's where evidence of the earliest existence of human life on earth was discovered. As we all know ALL of the native people from the native land are DARK SKINNED people. Well as people began to migrate to different parts of the earth they evolved to better adapt to their surroundings hence the reason why whites have no melanin in their skin along with slim nostrils for cold climates. Thus, white people are mutations of the original man who without a shadow of doubt was black. Therefore I believe that makes Blacks your ancestors my dear white people. I know it hurts but take it all in one day at a time!!

    July 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gandalfe

      As a white man, I have to mention: You are not my ancestor. Nor is any other black person currently living. I know all my living ancestors.

      But we DO share a common ancestor, that I will happily acknowledge. Probably several. So, cousin, let me ask you: Why do you say Caucasians would want to murder you for saying it? Anyone with a basic understanding of history or genetics has to acknowledge it.

      July 19, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Why do you say "every single Caucasian on the planet will probably try murder you on site" simply for stating that humans evolved out of Africa. We evolved from Apes which are found in Africa. What I read from your post is not truth but hate. You sound very bitter and rasist which is something I hope you can get over. Rasism will never die as long as there are people who continue to purpetuate it. A black person hating all whites is just as rasist as a white person hating all blacks. If everyone would simply try to be the best humans they can be and stop being negative about those different than themselves the world would be a better place.

      July 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
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