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. KS

    Yep, she'll probably cash in on the adoption credits...why does she need to "adopt' the children that are over one is going to take them away.

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

      I think the adoption of the adult children will be more symbolic than anything. They are adults and live in another state, so she can't get any credits for them no matter how she works it. Perhaps instead of being cynical about it, you should congratulate her for changing her life.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • lynn

      That's a little redundant. She wouldn't qualify for any tax credits or any other consideration, BECAUSE the children are already adults.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • etri

      That's so true. Another of those procreating like rabbits just to get taxpayers' money. It's people like this that make the world so damn overcrowded.
      From 1 to 11 in one generation... absurd.. Its way time that the gov implements some form of PENALTY in taxation (instead of reward) for those that procreate too much!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Louise

      Adult adoption is not unheard of and is used in other instances as well. It gives the adopted adult the right of inheritance in case the parent dies without a will. As someone else mentioned, it's also symbolic.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dea2

      Because they are her children and adopting them makes her their legal Mother again. It's not for legal reasons, it's for family.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coaster

      You would benifit greatly from Googling the tax laws on adoption credits before spouting your nonsense. She can't claim them for any sort of adoption credit. She won't make a dime off adopting them. This is purely symbolic, to "make right" what she'd done in the past. It seems that, unlike you, she is able to see a mistake she has made, and correct it.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MC Poopalot

    Ain't nobody gonna gib me props for my def rappadelic lyrics??

    July 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Libby

      Blow it out your self-righteous, piehole, troll!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • JAMBONE leader of Rappadelic

      whutchoo know bout dem delics (RAPPADELIC) ?

      August 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. asia

    there is alot of racist making comments on this article.....

    July 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dea2

      There are always a lot of racist comments in any article that features non-whites. Some people can't get out of the 1800's and are being left behind, so they make their digs where-ever and whenever they can.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sarah

    Um, "in the event that the adoptive parent is a blood relative and PASSES AWAY."
    I'm all for gay adoption but I draw the line at dead adoptive parents.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • KDW31

      I'll concede that the sentence was ill worded, but really do you not have any ability to determine meaning via context. The adopted parent referenced by this sentence is the one who originally adopted the children from the biological parent. As in the grandmother who adopted the children at birth. The adopted parent who passed away was the grandmother.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      The guardian (in this case the grandmother) passes away and was a blood relative to the children. Not the person (the mother) that regains custody.

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

      You read that wrong. The "adoptive parent" it refers to would be the person who adopted the children AFTER they were taken from their mother's custody-in this case, the grandmother, who then PASSED AWAY, making it possible for the mother to come back in and adopt her own children. The reason for that is because when they were originally adopted by the Grandmother, the mother's parental rights were terminated, meaning, it's as if the children were never born to her at all. So, the mother's standing would have been exactly the same as any other individual who determined to adopt a child. Have a nice day.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Functionally illiterate much, Sarah?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Deborah R

    Props to Ms. Miller for "stepping up" and making it right with her children.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lee

    How do you adopt an adult? Odd.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • KDW31

      I had a friend who was adopted by her step father as an adult. As a child her biological father would not give up his parental rights and allow an adoption. So after she turned 18 she had her step father adopt her. An adult who is adopted would have all the rights that children gain by being adopted. Such as inheritance and life insurance benefits. Also some people want to officially be a part of a family. I'm not sure if all states have adult adoption.

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

      If you think THIS is odd, look into the case in California where two lawyers owned two dogs that mauled and killed their neighbor. The lawyers adopted a neo-Nazi ADULT who was in prison at the time they adopted him, and then sent naked pics of the "mother" to their new '"son". Now THAT is odd.

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

    No Guest, she CAN NOT qualify for the adoption tax credit.

    Geez, what's with you people? You've NEVER did anything you thought was right at the time and then found out that you were wrong? When you did find out you were wrong did you go back and tried with all of your energy to make it right or did you leave the situation as is?

    She had the courage to get clean of drugs and do the right thing by everyone. Do you realize how difficult that is? She has to fight that addiction every single day. She has fought to make right of everything she did while on drugs and she has done that while you people condemn her.

    How about a little forgiveness for someone doing right by her kids by fighting addiction and trying to be a good mother with all of her soul. She can't go back in time and make the crack addiction not happen but I bet if she could she would do it without hesitation no matter the cost.

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

      What a wonderful comment!!!! Blessings on you!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allison

      I agree! A very wonderful comment! I wish them all a very happy life 🙂

      July 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey

      Bob, yes she CAN qualify for the 2 minors, but not for the 24 year olds unless they are handicapped.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Why WOULDN'T she be able to get a tax credit for the minors?

      July 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJS

      I say congratulations to her big time. I am not of her race but I have a niece who took the wrong path in life and she struggles every single day. This lady has battled a demon and admitted it and for her to come back and want her children as her own is to be commended .... not condemed. Some people do value family and this is a piece of a large puzzle that will make her more complete. To all the na-sayers, please shut your negative traps and give this lady some happiness and kudos that she deserves.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tim

    Why when people speak the TRUTH it becomes racist?

    July 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Um because your truth is racist! Your truth is false truth!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      The truth is very ugly. So is racism.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Eric

    HAha. Republican vile! They are so hypocritical. Why is it the liberals are the one's praising a women for her battle and victory over her addiction(Disease) and the republicans are the one's who continue to persecute her? Because they have zero compassion and all they care about is money in their pockets! They talk one thing on Sunday to impress their friends and do the opposite for the remaining 6 days! This women is a testament to the strength of a mother to overcome, claim victory, and spread the miracle. Don't believe the haters. They don't know any better!

    July 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN

      I don't really think this is a political debate. I really is draining the system though. I don't agree with either side. Republicans are usually against abortion. WHY?!!!! We need to promote abortion. Liberals enable this behavior by throwing money at it and making the situation worse. Gotta be somewhere in the middle. Sorry- Republicans and democrats both suck!

      July 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      I think everyone should say their political affiliation with their posts. It would show the right for the hateful, racist people they are. In general, not all but most! Welfare doesnt create addiction knuckle head. Addiction existed well before countries decided to show their poor compassion!

      July 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN

      What you are saying is that all republicans are racist and uncompassionate though. I don't really think that's true. You are assuming something about a group. And there is such a thing as enabling an addict. Go to a 12 step meeting knucklehead.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jess

    People that are only concerned about their tax dollars really disgust about some compassion for this family?

    July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN

      The family has suffered enough from this woman. And so has everyone else. I'd say she's fair target practice. We paid for her. Is it wrong to be mad at her? People get criticized. Part of life.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • peggy

      Je suis d'accord

      July 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kasey

    Guest, you are mistaken. An adult can be adopted, and as CLEARLY stated in the article, she adopted 4 children, including the two 24 year olds. True, she didn't get the tax credits for the 24 year olds, but she will for the 2 minors. That's $26K for both children. A tax credit is not per month, but she will get $26K in the year of the adoption as a refundable tax credit. Plus, until those minors are 23 (if they stay in school) she can get a EIC of around $5-6K for those kids, per year, refundable. That means, if the adoptions occured this year, she'll be making $32K off of it (refundable means she gets the tax credit outright, non-refundable means it gets used against the balance of taxes owed). I'm not by any means saying she's doing this with that in mind. I'm sure it feels like an accomplishment for her. However, this is the money involved.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      I actually think she deserves all that for getting herself off of crack. Saved the government a lot of money in social services by doing that by herself. It is actually an amazing accomplishment.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chaz King

    This is a terrific and inspriring story. Congratulations Yolanda for making things right for your family and thinking not just of yourself but also how you can help others caught in similar situation.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. peggy

    ....."Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us..." Kudos not only to Miss Miller but to her adult daughters for their pardon of their mother's transgressions! I wish them all the best of luck.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DonaGen

    God bless her! It was no doubt the prayers of her family that allowed God to 'immobilize' her and ask for another chance. What a blessing. What a miracle! What a blessing she will be for her family and others as she carries her story of victory. Those of you who have hate in your heart won't understand, but that's OK.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. satana

    Stfyu about detroit. I may not live there but was born, raised, live in michgan and am raising my kids there. Practically every state hasa cesspool/metropolitan carcass like the D. Its narrowminded moron shytheds like you that oughta move there and see how long you last. Til then STFU

    July 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
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