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. Chimera

    It's sad that people on here would rather condemn this woman for actions she did while addicted to a horrific drug than laud her for her strength to recover and seek out her children. She made a mistake, went through probably an extreme amount of hardship for her poor decision, and still came back to make things right. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, yes?

    July 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krissy

      God also preaches about this thing called forgiveness Chimera. Perhaps you should go back and read your bible again. God's biggest thing is forgiveness. So, her children should carry a grudge forever? They should be filled with hate? Why not forgive and be full of love?
      I tink what she's doing is wonderful. She realized she made a mistake and she's doing her hardest to correct her mistake. At this point she's been sober over 10 years....for some, that wouldn't have happened...but that she made it happen, shows great strength and determination.
      And fyi. Its only your tax dollars at work if you live in that state. Not to mention, how many of you Screw the system and act like its ok?

      July 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chimera

      Krissy, I think you meant to hit the "reply" button to someone who was actually saying the OPPOSITE of what I said... I'm sorry about your whole reading-comprehension thing. Hope that gets better for you.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • kaligaclark

      CONGRATS to her and her children. She strayed and had a hard time, lost her kids. Then she straightened her life out and got her kids back. I am glad that her mother let her get better and still be a part of their lives.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • glj

      I agree she should have a chance, but who is paying for the 4 kids she is 'adopting'? Who is paying for the other 7 kids? Who is supporting her? If it is herself, this good job. if it is the government, then the government failed

      July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      Krissy, I think you need to read Chimera's post again. She's sympathizing with the mother, not condemning her. I, on the other hand, think she should have kept her legs together instead of having 11 kids that were most likely raised on welfare. That's the burden that all of us bear, raising her kids. At the ages they are now, it's kind of silly for her to adopt them back. They're all grown up. It's really just lip service.

      Another problem I see with this law is it is going to create reluctance in other people to adopt children here in the U.S. Yes, for now they children can only be adopted back by their bio mom if the other adoptive parent was a relative and dead. But that's just a hop and skp away from allowing them to take kids back from adoptive parents who aren't related to them, dead or not. As an adoptive mom that's frightening to me. It's just one more reason for those who are willing to adopt kids in our foster systems to go elsewhere. Who would want to raise a child as their own for years only to have the bio mom come back and claim them when she finally decides to sober up. It already happens if the dad wasn't listed and comes back later to claim the child.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for her. She was able to clean herself up. But this new law is going to make it a little harder for kids in our foster care system to find their forever families, because who knows if 10 years from now something will happen to allow the bio parents to take them away.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • pete theman

      kudos to her
      i wish more could do the same ..... and i would not mind my tax dollars going to her

      July 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Children should be with their mothers! If a mother changers her life and show's she can maintain that change she deserves her rights back. She never abused these children. They were placed with her mother. A lot of people on here dont understand addiction the disease and have no business posting their ignorance. I suggest you read a book, go volunteer at a mission, etc. I hope your children never have a problem with drugs because they would find no compassion form their own parents. Religion is supposed to make people have softer hearts in theory. All I see is the hardening of hearts from the right!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      Eric said: "Children should be with their mothers

      So, are you saying if a couple adopts a crack baby and the mother cleans up her act, she should be able to come back, at any time, and take the child? You, sir, are an idiot.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • LP

      The other day I got into the car and thought the keys were in there, but they weren't- I'd left them in the house. That is a MISTAKE. Having 20 children while addicted to crack and then abandoning them all is not a "mistake." It's a pattern of evil that there is no absolution from. She has affected generations of kids- some of hers already have kids, and she can be thanked for that.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • LP

      *10 children*

      July 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Geri

    Just how much did this cost the taxpayers? How does she support herself and all those children, welfare? Again I ask how much is this costing the taxpayers?

    July 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aneta

      Yes Geri, clearly, the important thing here is how much it cost the taxpayers. Let's not worry about millions of dollars spent on crazy frivolous lawsuits, lobbyists trying to get laws repealed, corporate America being insanely litigious, but let's just focus on this legitimate use of our legal system. I think it must be very sad to be you. Why don't you pretend my tax dollars paid for this and you'll feel better, I make loads so should be covered...

      July 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruthHurts

      Probably costing us less then the Casey Anthony defense team...

      July 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - St. Louis

      Aneta – we are posting about this story. I'm sure there is plenty of outrage on the other story's page (Casey Anthony) or on other pages about mass gov't waste. THIS GOV'T WASTE was created by 1 woman! People are clearly upset because this is a perfect example of a woman, who chose drugs over her children and instead of stopping, continued to breed crack babies, which will require years of medical care themselves. It's disgusting and never ending! This 1 woman has cost States and the Federal Gov't untold THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of dollars because she wanted to get high and couldn't keep her legs together. She chose not to get sterilized. She's selfish. As I said, Her kids might forgive her but the taxpayers will keep paying and paying for her and her children. Other people may like throwing money at a baby-breeding crack-head, but I certainly don't. If private individuals want to support her, I say, more power to them. Don't give her any taxpayer money, she and her kids have sucked up enough resources! And we're going to pass LAWS to reward such disgusting behavior?! Seriously? What guarantees do we get that she won't EVER relapse? Oh, none! So not only can she potentially screw over the taxpayers some more, she can possibly screw over those poor kids again. What a stupid plan.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • All3Allin

      Linda-Are you an idiot? Most of these kids are already grown. We are no longer paying for them unless they are also on welfare, which may be the case, but I'd rather pay for these US citizens than all of the illegals that we pay for! Everyone makes mistakes in life. Lets not condemn people that are actually trying to right the wrongs, when so many just walk away.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eleven kids?

    Eleven kids on crack. Awesome. Our tax dollars at work.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN

      Our future, coming out of this woman. Glad she's finally going to do something for society.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • RainingMen

      Where was your outrage when our tax dollars paid for most of Casey Anthonys defense team?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Katie

    Kudos to her for getting clean, but good lord woman, 11 kids while on crack??

    July 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl

      Actually, according to the article, it was only ten. Whew! Don't you feel better now? (eye roll). YIKES what kind of people are out there that are impregnating a woman addicted on crack with tons of children. Disgusting. It's a miracle that those kids even survived. Thank God for the grandmother who stepped in before the mother got her life in order.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruthHurts

      Cocaine is a helluva drug...

      July 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cherri

      It's not up to us to judge her or anyone, I would personally say thankg goodness she turned her life around. But suppose you and your significant other lost everything (especially the way the economy is nowadays) and the govt had to assist you. Are we wrong for talking bad about you because you and your children have to eat and your medical needs have to be taken care of? Your tax dollars? We all pay, I'm more than sure, with the amount I pay, I've paid for them all on my very own if that's the case. Get a grip please. We are all human and I'm sure the crack this lady was addicted to was probably the reason her legs were wide open to produce and birth 11 children. Bless your heart.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pennie

    Apparently all the critics on here have never made a mistake in life? Must be nice to be perfect. I am happy that this woman had an epiphany and gave up the crack. Her mother was a saint to wait patiently for her to get clean and to give up her own middle-age freedom to care for all those kids. I doubt she did it for welfare, as some have stated, since most of the children are close to being grown up and seem to live with others. Yes, she made mistakes that she can never take back but hopefully all is well for her and her family.As far as adopting adults, I think it is more of a formailty to have it on record that she is really the legal mother of her offspring.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • taxpayer

      The worst crime in it all is she will now get adoptive tax credits (not deductions, mind you) for all of these children. More taxpayer dollars at work and a loophole big enough to drive 11 kids through

      July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      Pennie, I dare say very few of us have had 11 children while on crack that we abandoned to let someone else raise (on welfare, I'm sure). So, if you've done that, I say the same thing to you I would have said to her after the first, oh, 5 kids. Learn how to keep your legs together or get yourself on birth control. Of course most people have made mistakes in their lives, but the same mistake 11 times is kind of, well, stupid.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN

      She made 11 of the same mistakes to be exact...

      July 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I totally agree with you that is what is wrong with people today we all want to throw a stone even when we haven<t got the beam out of ours.No one is perfect but the Son of God.I commend her for getting her life together and helping others become free of addiction and repairing familes so that they can mend with love and contuine on.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • All3Allin

      @Kasey--I feel sorry for the adoptive children that you claim. To be raised by a close minded, judgemental, idiot like you will very likely lead them to be more of the same. Please understand that you are NOT perfect and have no right to judge. You obviously know very little about addiction. It doesn't exactly lead to excellent decision making. Do some research.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mizz.Givens

      TEN! She had TEN children. Geez! Read the article! At least be accurate in your outrage!

      July 8, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. phearis

    Eleven kids?!?! Have you ever tried keeping your legs closed?!?!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kindasorta

    Ooops!. I mean Ms. Miller.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wanna be welfare millionaire? Adopting your own kids!!

    What a screwed up. Abandon then adopt their own kids. Racking 1k per kid per month, then you got 11K per month by adopting your own kids...work the number... she making 132k per year by adopting her own kids. Why I implored her recovery, but this shouldn't be tax payer burden. What another slap for tax payers... Lousy welfare system!! Reward everyone who doesnt deserved!!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tami

      Did you read the story? She is adopting the ADULT children, too (only two of the 10 were still minors). There is no handout for grown children.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • degenerate108

      The article said she adopted 4, good thing you can read. >.>

      July 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • JTSJ17

      Ok, read the article. Most of the kids are adults. She doesn't get anything for them! No tax credits and no checks! The only ones she may get anything for are the two who are still minors! Please read the article before saying more stupid stuff!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      Well, let's see... She can get an earned income tax credit of nearly $6K for the kids 23 or under and still in school. She gets the adoption tax credit for all kids under the age of 17, and she has adopted 2 of those, so that's around $26K, all refundable. So a total of $32K of your tax dollars that she'll be getting by adopting her own children that she's never really going to have to take care of or make a living for. I admire her for cleaning up her act. I'm not condemning her, I'm condemning the lawmakers to have enabled this really silly legislation.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • schuyler

      I'm sorry that the public school system let you down so badly . . . .

      July 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Guest

    Wonder if she'll qualify for the $13k per child refundable adoption tax credit...

    July 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      For the 2 minors she adopted, she will. So, $26K refundable, not non-refundable (which is paid out for actual income tax debt over 5 years, and if you don't need it, you lose it).

      July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Guest

    Seriuosly??!! Just because her skin is brown that she is on welfare??!! There are cocaine addicts, prescription drug addicts, alcoholics, etc. that go to work everyday. Also, who cares how many fathers there are or where they are. There are white women with multiple "baby daddies" and deadbeat white fathers (the trailer parks are full of wonderful examples of both).

    This woman has acknowledge her past and did what it took to make it right. BTW, to adopt anyone, it takes an attorney and court fees. It would be difficult on the income of a person receiving public assistance to pay for an attorney, let alone a home, child care, utilities, furnishings, clothing, food, ......... Some of you need to get off the internet and get back to your Klan meeting.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      The kind of adoption she did, the fees are nominal. But, welfare, not because of her skin color, but because there were 11 children being raised by a grandmother and she was on crack. I don't care if she's purple, two and two make 4.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - St. Louis

      The color of her skin is moot. Her lawyer did the adoptions for free so she could use her as an example to get a new law passed. Again, all this drama, NOT HER MONEY. I doubt her mother could raise 10 kids without assistance (welfare/food stamps/medicare). Again, NOT HER MONEY. At some point, society as a whole shouldn't have to support someone else's kids because she couldn't keep her legs closed! No where does the story say she was working. A long-term crack-head, I'd bet she's collecting social security!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jd

    I understand wanting to regain custody of your minor children, but what is the purpose of adopting your fully grown adult children? Its not like anyone can take them away at that point? Name changes, if necessary, don't require adoption. Sounds like a fine waste of the court's time.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JTSJ17

      Um, maybe to show that she really wants to be their mother. Yes, it is not particularly practical or necessary, but it shows her kids that she loves them and is doing what she can to make things right. People need to get over themselves here. Jeez!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MC Poopalot

    She likes to slang and bang like it ain't no thang. Mo' money Mo' money Mooo' money. Sheeeeeeeeeet.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOEK

      You got the right name MC poopalot, Poop for comment, poop the way you think and POOP FOR BRAINS!!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kelly

    Great Story!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rose nyeland

    Her mom was a total saint...11 kids....yikes

    July 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest2

    Guest and Wanna be, evidently you missed a few points in the article. She only adopted 2 minor children. The others were 24 years old! I don't know about IL, but in my state the government money stops at legal age. There's no way she'll get 13K a month.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
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