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. the_dude

    Let me guess.....she is an obama voter

    July 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Let me guess, you are another moron tea party member who cannot even think about bacteria without making it political at the national level.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe sampson

      Let me stick to the topic of the story and post intelligent comments like that all the time.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      Yeah, silly her for believing in hope and change.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hates ignorant ppl

    Most of the ppl commenting on here are ignorant, always bashing someone for turning there life around. For one she wont get the adoption tax credit it prohibits people that adopt their own children from receiving it, you only receive welfare for 2 kids anything after that is ur problem and last only 2 of those kids are under the age of 18. At least this lady cared enough to not give up like other crack heads. Just an fyi the money her mom received from the state for adopting the kids is only limited to 3 kids look up facts before making uneducated comments.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dallas Fowler

      Hate is such a strong word lol. But thanks for posting facts.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      You aren't eligible for the adoption tax credit for adopting your spouse's child(ren). Strangely, there is no such prohibition concerning adopting a child to whom your parental rights were previously severed. Also, while you are correct that (unless the older children are special needs children) that "welfare" benefits are only available for minors, there are many forms of welfare that are available for multiple children and not limited to the first two children in a household. Before you claim other people are ignorant, you should do a bit more research into the applicable laws yourself.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnDorian

      If you're going to make a broad statement and call the people on this forum "ignorant", would you please check your spelling and grammar first before hitting the "Post" button? Otherwise, you're just a pot calling the kettle black.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jayb

    What is wrong with all these people was you brought up in america or some 3rd world country..first of all its the gov't making these rules not the people so hate the game not the player as they say...and second..everyone talking about i am paying for her kids no youre not you are paying your dues as a american citizen to live here..called taxes thats normal for this country and last of all thats why people say america is falling apart we dont stick together like all these other countries thats why they get ahead and we dont ...this is the best natiion and people talking about each other is just crazy grow up and mind ur business....

    July 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Jau, this is the ME generation. Everything is always for the individual, screw the collective. Let the children starve, the elderly die early and the roads go back to being dirt roads. Just so that me me me me me is taken care of, like a two year old child.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. the_truth

    Praise God!!!! Never too late..Never give up on The Lord.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brandy

    Good for her! You dont see addicts turn their lives around and want to be active in their childrens lives everyday – no matter what age! Good luck to you!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Frencha Medina

    "Two weeks ago Yolanda Miller, 49, adopted four of her 11 biological children, who range in age from their late teens to mid-20s."


    July 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      What is funny? That children can now claim to have a surviving parent?
      Or that she turned her life around and is now a contributing member of our society?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeakok643

      Funny thing is... That is all I read and scrolled straight to the comments lol

      July 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. alienmom

    she should have been sterilized after the first crack baby.Why can't we have laws to protect the unborn?

    July 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • the_truth

      You need JESUS in your life. If you do. You would not say these HORRIFIC words. Be Blessed. Jesus Loves You And So Do I.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • cpope

      I don't think you need Jesus in your life, you need common courtesy! I certainly hope you don't live in a glass house!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      alienmom's mother should have swallowed the night she was conceived.

      July 8, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. Deanna stubbs

    I too lost my 2 girls in 1995 when I was hooked on crack. I woke up1 day god said to walk with him n its been 16yrs clean n now my girls r grown n gave me 5 awsome g-kids who love so much as do I. Proud of u!! May u have a bless day the rest ur life!!! God loves us.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      Apparently god didn't help you with proper English though.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. alienmom

    all drug addicts male or female should be sterilized.You want more kids IF you are ever clean ...adopt your crack head friend's kids,plenty of those poor children around.Disgusting.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. golden.

    Good for you all and may good bless you and keep you strong

    July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cyndi

    Congratulations to Ms. Miller. She is an example to people everywhere that you can turn your life around. I wish she and her children nothing but happiness.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rachael

    You are an amazing woman, Yolanda – and an inspiration to us all!! This story really made my day. I envy you your persistence and strength – you better get out and share your experience.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Richard

    Does anyone know the significance of adopting adult children? Is it just symbolic or is there some practical purpose to it as well?

    July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      The practical impact of adopting an adult would depend on the state and the situation of the family. For example, in some states there is a tax advantage to inheriting from a parent that would not be there if the relationship had been severed by the child being adopted by another person. Another example would be states in which an adult child could be liable for certain expenses incurred by his/her indigent parent. It really would depend on the situation of the individuals involved.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. idiots

    Sterilize crackheads who reproduce simply as a money saving measure. How much cash should be spent on premie care, cost of taking care of developmentally disabled and physically disabled crack babies, how much on orphanages, on foster care payments, and then their college (paid by the state), and for food stamps and welfare for the crackheads who still have their 11 kids? I'm tired of paying for it.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Diana

    And people wonder why parents go to other countries to adopt children. Because the children can be taken away from you to give to a drug addict!!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      The adoptive parent in this case was this woman's mother (ie. the grandmother of the children). Given she is dead (according to the article), where are you getting the idea that the children are being taken away from her?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
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