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. Jeff lebowski

    Sounds great. What a hero to beat crack. The article didnt mention if she receives public assistance and used that welfare money to buy crack

    July 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • StlMelz

      What does that have to do with this story?!?!?!!!! She has been clean 14 years and has rebuilt her life and made a life for her children. Sheesh!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason K

      Why only 4? Which 4, the youngest ones so she can claim $3000.00 a head as dependants for 20 some odd years? Not to mention WIC, public welfare, medicaid, etc? Why do we even have government welfare? Its nothing but a money sink. Let these people fend for themselves, maybe a few years on the streets will teach them some responsibility...namely to stop f-ing in the front hole!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. matt volkel

    She would not have been able to support those children even if she was not using crack. We PAY people like her to make babies. Having children is not a right it is a privilage and until we recognize this children will continue to be neglected and abused.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |


      July 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I can't belive the number of racist pigs are on this comment line. How do you know she was on welffare or couldn't take care of the kids before she got hooked on Crack. If this was a good looking white women, you'd all be making different comments. Good for her on beating Crack, which is something that NONE of you bigots could do.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      No Mark, he's right. You obviously don't understand how crack heads act. They don't hold jobs well, nor do they give a ****. Even if she DID have a job, odds are stacked VERY highly against her being able to support them all. They were on welfare, guaranteed.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |

      Having children IS a right. What the hell country do you live in?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JamesX

      Even worse considering by sheer numbers there are more white people on walfare than black.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arend

      Mark, nobody made a comment about this woman's race..! Why do you assume these comments are motivated by race, rather than the fact that she was a crack addict who gave birth to 11 children?! I commend her for her difficult recovery, but none the less I'm upset about a social welfare system that provides assistance to drug addicts who obviously refused to use birth control. This is what everyone is writing about, you're the one turning it into an issue about race. I think it's time to take an introspective look into your own beliefs - and hopefully you come to realize that you're a bigot and you have a problem.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. taxed

    Any chance the author could tally up the total cost of this woman and her breeding, drugs, food stamps, WIC, child care, subsidized housing, medicaid, etc? The screwing of the taxpayer never seems to count when these articles are written. Why is that?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |


      July 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dj

    Why did someone like this have 10 children on the taxpayers dime in the first place. People should be sterilized after the first one if they can't pay for it. Enough of sucking the country dry for welfare. Rid the gene pool of stupidity.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beadlesaz

      And in the world you envision, it is doubtful you would contribute enough to society's betterment to qualify for continued existence.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      too bad your mom didnt swallow the night you were made. that would have cleaned out the gene pool pretty damn well!

      July 8, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    She probably gets a fat check for adopting the children back, which typically equals more than DSS.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |


    July 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • joanpa

      @ BIKEKING I have two adopted children and all I ever did was pay lots for them. In what state does an adoptive parent get a check? I know thre are stipends for foster children, but to the best of my knowledge, unless you're adopting a child who is eligible for an SSI check, you are fully taking on the financial responsibility.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. maxine

    I agree with you dj!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rebecca

    As an adult who had been raised by drug addicts in my childhood, i can see from how my father was just exactly what this woman is talking about. She turned her life completely around and took care of her kids when she stopped being an addict and GREW UP. I'm not condoning her drug abuse problem, its in her past, she cant change that, but she is doing right by her children now, and it IS inspiring to hear. Honestly, we need more cases like this, where the person got clean on their own accord, and became the parent they needed to be.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beadlesaz

      Rebecca – you are a truly wonderful person. May you have a wonder-filled life.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RichG

    Many of you people commenting are just terrible. You better hope it never happens to you or one of your loved ones. Hope the rest of your day goes shi++y!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Teri

    So, basically what she did was allow her mom to collect a check each month for the kids all these many years. And, now she'll be taking the adoptive parent credit.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      Being the fact that most of these 'children' are adults, I highly doubt she will be getting a check for their care. If nothing else, I see her adopting these kids out of the shear fact that if any one of them needed medical attention, she could make medical decisions on their behalf as the closest next of kin. If half the people on here were smart enough, you would know that once these kids become of legal age she nor her mother would be able to collect $$ from them anymore!!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dr Doolitle

    Interesting how the article fails to mention anything about how this woman plans on raising these kids. Usually in these feel good stories you'll see things like, 'has a job as a blah blah blah', etc. Nothing here. Just that she got custody. And note, not of the young ones. Wonder why that is.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      In case you can't read, the article specifically stated that she adopted 'THE TWO WHO ARE STILL MINORS'. Apparently, all but the very youngest whom she NEVER LOST CUSTODY OF are all adults!!!!!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ashley

    Addicts, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, etc. And for the few racist comments I have read I will tell you for a FACT that I know of city and local commissioners, who are the BIGGEST addicts there are!!!! And these men are as WHITE as the background on this webpage! So for you racists to assume that all addicts are Black, on welfare, and come from the ghetto, you are some of the SAME ones who are closeted crackheads!!! Just bc addicts such as this woman are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to their drug of choice, doesn't mean that her demographic are the only ones!! Do I really need to talk about all the WHITE celebrities, government officials, and those in high paying/profile professions that are addicted to PRESCRIPTION DRUGS and live in Million Dollar homes that you people look up to!!!!!!!!! Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Heath Ledger, Physicians, Lawyers, Teachers need I go on....

    July 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebecca

      THank you for stating this. I'm tired of seeing be so stereotypical about this issue. It's not a problem in one race, its a problem in ALL.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chandra

      Thanks Ashley! Simply amazing how dumb some can be..........Ugh!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MN

      The difference with them is that they have enough money to pay for their own crack and children...

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JohnCBarclow

    Chicago is a toilet.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. the_dude

    This is a great story. What a proud baby momma of 14 kids all of which will become crakc-addicted welfare cases like momma. A lifetime of feeding from the public trough.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOEK

      What a person experience in their life and overcomes, it's an accomplishment that need to be appaulded rather than demonize. No matter what you think of her drug usage, this women is an example to many other women and men who fight the same demons and eventuallty win that fight. All you poserS and flakes out there who take this opportunity to spout negativity need to do a checkup an assess your mental and compassionate abilities. GOD BLSS YOU MS. MILLER!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chandra

    Ms. Miller, I pray that you stay strong. I commend your hard work and determination. So many dare not try to get clean. They let crack control their lives. It amazes me how many bigots post on such a refreshing story. God bless this entire family! Kids, please make your mom proud of you as she's made you guys proud of her. Always encourage her. Thank God for deliverance!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
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