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. LesMiserables

    Clean & years from crack?!?!? AWSOME! You go on with your life Yolanda Miller! You are a strong woman and I wish you ALL the best for your future!!!

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

      Amen! Good for you Mrs. Miller!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tiff

    What a wonderful law.. but why does it have to wait until the adoptive blood relative dies? If all parties are in agreement and it can be shown that the person who lost custody is well now and it has been that way for years why not allow a release and then the Bio mom to adopt back?

    July 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • dx2718

      Because depending on how long the kids have been with the adoptive parents, the kids may prefer to stay with the adoptive parents as they're the only parents they've ever known. Biological parents shouldn't automatically have "rights" to their kids, especially after having them taken away due to being messed up; the kids' best interest needs to be kept in mind.

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

    First of all, my point is that SOMEONE got paid when the children were babies, and it was likely not in their best interest to STOP the insanity of having oodles more despite how immoral it is to deliberatly have crack addicted babies.

    Yes, they are adults, and she is likely adopting them because she is their mom and she wants that to be recognized officially. She won't get anything but a true legal connection to the kids.

    And second, YES I was outraged at Octomom and her doctor! He needs to be put on trial and I think she has learned a really tough lesson that the working citizens are paying for.

    Keep planned parenthood funded, give out contraception for free and let's try to prevent the morbid procreation our society seems to be obsessed with!!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gwen

      If she were sober enough to use contraception (which has to be used regularly AND correctly) then she would have been sober enough to keep her kids. Parenthood as a choice made by addicts is a myth. Biological ability to reproduce does not diminish with inability to actually parent.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tallulah

      Well said! Especially regarding birth control.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • mnswede

      Gwen, that is a very good point!
      It's very hard to deal with the addiction issue because letting the state step in and prevent her from having more crack babies is a very slippery slope.

      My primary concern is for unwanted, special needs children being brought in to this world whether through addiction or Octo-idiots.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. George

    Bless her!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Leopold

    An unnecessary law.

    When parental rights are terminated as per law, it does not prohibit that parent from adopting. As long as DHHS and the court found it was in the children's best interest, which it would be in this case, an adoption can proceed. It's unusual, but there was nothing in the law that prohibited it. An unnecessary law.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • olcranky

      I'm a little confused by this as well; if the grandmother adopted the children after the mother's parental rights were revoked, couldn't the grandmother have just named the now reformed mother to be legal guardian of the children in her will?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • NONcorrect

      Leopold, it depends on the state. Perhaps in that state there WAS something that stopped it. I DO know in Washington State you are correct – you have to be fit to adopt, but there is nothing blocking it.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Macromicroman

    Can you adopt somebody that is 24 years old?

    July 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gwen

      Yes. See the other story about the family that adopted the Marine. While some may see it as an unnecessary formality, the legal ramifications on subjects like inheritence and custody of siblings in case of parental demise are very important. If you love someone enough that he or she is "like part of thet family" protect them under the law by making them part of the family.

      July 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Janie

    I applaud this woman for making things right. I hope this is a first if many parents getting life on track and showing their families that they can truly do something with their lives. Bless you and your family!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kevin

    Four out of eleven??? somehow, this cracks me up!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sad Auntie

    I wish they would pass this law in Massachusetts! My poor nephew was placed with his father...a man hasn't done a damn thing for him his entire 11 years on this earth and is now going through hell. My sister is working on getting it together and trying to get him back. I also think that family members should have rights!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |

    Am glad the lady got her life back on tract, but am thinking to myself ELEVEN CHILDREN? My gawd...... I feel it's all well and good as long as the child has been put into the custody of other family members. I think it might set a dangerous precedence if the child was adopted to another separate family, which sometimes happens in foster care situations. In those cases, no way should they get the child back.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bob Ferapples

    2 words – Adoption credit.

    July 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rachel W

    Inspirational! Thanks for helping others. Drugs destroy so many families!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. R in Ohio

    She should not have had that many kids!!! Eleven kids all paid for with tax payer money and it happens all over the U.S. and across every color and ethnic background. I cannot stand paying for someone's irresponsibility with procreation and then on top of that, people file taxes on their income and get child tax credits x eleven!! I'm glad they are cutting some of the SSI benefits.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lee Cherry

    Thats the Power of God. I know 'cause He's done it for me. God took away the addiction, carving, and desire from me. I know He could have done it for Ms Miller. You go Yolanda. Maintain the miracle.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • someoneelse

      Couldn't God have done it before adding ELEVEN crack addicted babies to a world that can't handle them?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Cherry

      Dont ask me, ask God

      July 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. teresa, sno-hio

    Great job.... there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. The kids must be very proud of her. She could have just left things alone, but she needed to fix what she'd done. ^5 And what a grandmother .... to have taken on all those kids!!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
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