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. someoneelse

    Seriously, forced sterilization would have been the best bet after the third.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cherries

      Seriously. I know. It's not a matter of being inhumane or cruel. It's a matter of praticallity.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • bdgfn

      In your case, forced sterilization should have been done prior to your birth.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      bdgfn, first of all, an argument is usually required in a debate. Second, you're an idiot.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CSnSC

    @MN you and I finaly agree on something!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TLC

    As grown adults they would of had to consent to be adopted. Obviously her adult children wanted to be legally recognized as her children. That is the point of being grown and being adopted! Furthermore as her legal children must now know that they have the rights and responsibility of being her legal heirs. Also there are alot of children who live with family and have been adopted by them who are NOT on welfare or have ever abused the system! This law is a good thing for family's to be brought back together after real struggles in life. More tax dollars are spent on toilet seats in this country then on feeding children so complain about that! I wish the best to any family that can be made whole and live in peace.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Coolius Unroolius

    Looks like the mom went from a crack addiction to a food addiction. Yuck, someone got hit with the ugly stick!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      and then moved on to the religion addiction. Who has 11 kids while drug addicted? Give me some rock and I'll let you f*** me? Whatever. Yet gay people aren't allowed to adopt in some juristictions because children deserve both a mother and a father.

      Yeah, sure, whatever.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mo

    I wish God would stop my crack addicted mother when she goes out to get high. Nice job Ms. Miller. Make your children proud.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Coolius Unroolius

    @someoneelse: In a perfect world, mothers like this would be turned into dog food long before they even had a chance to crank out one crack baby.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tired of paying for everyone else's kids

    i hope that she is not getting and adoption subsidy from the state for children that were hers to begin with.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I hope you are right. Although that would explain why she's doing it. You know she has to have an arrest record a mile long so finding a job, in Detroit no less, isn't going to pay the bills for 11 crack kids.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Respect

    Another tired trend/kneejerk reaction that needs to be retired quickly in 2011:
    People calling other people racist who get upset with people of non-white descent doing dumb things.

    I don't like the President not because of his skin color, but because he is an empty suit. I did not like the last one either and he was white.
    I don't like certain people in the ghetto not because of their skin color, but because of the crime they commit, resources they squander, and tax dollars that they leech off of.

    Criticism of people of non-white descent is just that...criticism. If you squander tax dollars, waste resources, and are a drain on society, you will hear about it. I don't care what skin color you are.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mnswede

    "she made a mistake!" A mistake? A SINGLE mistake??
    She has 11 children while addicted to crack! Why didn't anyone step in?! Crack causes long-term mental and physical damage on a baby.
    Good for her for cleaning up, but let's get real.
    Someone got some kind of compensation for raising 11 crack babies.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Can you even adopt a kid in their 20's? I mean, a little late isn't it ma? I'm sure the only reason she's adopting them is for the tax break anyway.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michelle

    Congratulations to Ms Miller for getting her life together!

    And thank you CNN bloggers for showing to me that most racists have no reading comprehension skills. There's no collecting welfare on adults you geniuses. She has been clean for a decade and a half and you troglodytes assume she is on welfare. A brilliant lot you are.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You have proof she's not on welfare? I'd say the odds are about 99.9999999999999999999999999999% that that woman receives government aid.

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

      gotta pay for the gold teefas somehow, right?

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

      Hello towering intellectual Chris. If you could pass elementary school reading comprehension you would see that almost all her children are grown and don't live with her anymore. The two that are minors won't be minors for much longer. Not much welfare to collect. Adoption costs money, normally not money that people on public assistance can afford. She has been clean for a decade and a half and most ex junkies WORK to help keep themselves off drugs. Now go back to your remedial reading and math classes since you are weak at both.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      While there is no indication in the story that she is eligible for state assistance for any of her children, two of the children she adopted back (in other words, half of them) are still minors as would be the one child she had after her alleged epiphany. She also would be, for those two children, eligible for a federal adoption tax credit. This is a credit not a deduction, which means even if she makes no money at all and pays no taxes, she will receive this money upon filing her 2011 tax return. She can also now claim child tax credits on those two (again, a credit and not a deduction) as well as now being able to claim deductions for those two as dependents and include them in any calculations for the earned income tax credit. She will financially benefit from adopting back the two minor children.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    I wish people would get it straight. It is caregiver not caretaker. Caretakers take care of physical things, caregivers give love, support, and basics to people.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Briordy Meyers

    I used to work as an assistant Cook County Public Guardian and my guess is that originally the child protection case came through our office. We represented abused and neglected children through the abuse cases in court as both attorneys and guardian ad litem. While many parents think we're trying to separate families, the truth is no one is happier when a reunification comes....if not for the obvious personal/professional joy of helping our client, also because frankly any case we successfully closed is one less case.

    However, there is no need for new law. New policy lobbying, maybe, but don't need the new law. Just need to convince the agency and court that their again adoptive worth parents after a termination of parental rights. I can see why advocates would want it, because its an immediate tool, but I think attorneys in Juvenile Court who are not regular practicioners there and don't understand the Juvenile Court Act of IL often do overkill....I've seen divorce attorneys advocate for their client parents in a way that looks like a custody battle, misunderstanding that nothing can stop an abuse trial-even if the parents didn't abuse. This new law reminds me of that. I'm sure there is language in policy and maybe even statute that precludes past bio parents who lost their rights, but a truly educated attorney would realize the law is superfluous-when the facts are that the former bio parent is the best option, the facts will find a way....Good story, but unnecc. law....

    July 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rick S.

    Way to go!!!! I am proud of you for quitting cocain and getting your life back on track. Please, please don't fall again because you may not get back up again.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jmail

    For all the people on complaining about tax dollars and welfare used for the 11 kids, did you complain about Octomom and her 14 kids using your tax dollars? Or did you say anything about her being on welfare?

    July 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      YES! Octomom should be put in a mental hospital and never allowed out.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • dx2718

      Yep, we complained about octumom. She's one of the most hated women in America. Of course, the difference between Octumom and this POS, is that Octumom needed a doctor's help to have her babies – and that doctor needs to also be held accountable. Furthermore, while Octumom wasn't on drugs (that we know of) while having her brood, she put them at risk in other ways (8 babies, one womb, VERY premature), so that's comparable too. We KNOW Octumom's kids have various psychological disorders, and probably more will be diagnosed as the octuplets get older. We don't know what the damage is to this crack lady's kids, but apparently they survived to adulthood.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    I don't do crack!



    Chris Rock

    July 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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