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. marie

    I have no idea what it's like to have an addiction, I doubt I have the addiction gene. I do know that you can be addicted to anything, even illegal drugs. But it does not make a person a bad person. I give this woman credit for turning her life around, quiting drugs, and be able to live for her children. That is what a good mother does. She also had many odds against her, minority, poor, no education etc. Until someone has lived her life and walked in her shoes don't judge this woman, admire her.
    BTW, I'm white, married, and a stay at home mom.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim F.

      Baloney! If you're dumb enough to try it – you reap the consequences! Acquired disease, my azz! Stupid people make stupid decisions, despite being parents. What a load of manure!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • eg

      Jim F, you're misinformed about the nature of addiction. There are environmental/personality issues involved for sure, but there are absolutely genetic and developmental issues at play as well. It's complicated. I absolutely believe that people have to decide to live well, but I also know that this is far more difficult for some people than others.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. christine ravenell

    I'm glad 4 her and her family and God bless but if ur on drugs and u can't take care of urself, let alone 1 kid, after the kid is taken away because of abuse, she should've been made 2 get fixed. Cause if u have no income and ur alone w/no help, the next stop and only stop is welfare. If u get on and the hospital don't take the baby or kids from u, ur gonna keep putin ur kids on the system and the taxpayers will continue 2 take care of u. I know lots of ppl who lost their kids cause they were addicted 2 stuff. If u have 1 and ur not able 2 take care of ur business, do that baby a favor and either give them 2 their father(if the mother knows who it is), if not, a relative or close friend. Last resort would be foster care and get urself fixed. Stop opening ur legs or at least us bc, that's what its 4. That's just ludacris 2 have all them kids and can't take care of them. And she only has 4 out of 11, that's just crazy. I'm surprised she couldn't just have her parental rights reinstated instead of adopting them. I know usually w/foster care, they pay u 4 taking care of them. I wonder if she's getin paid 4 taking care of her own kids and where the heck r the father(s)? Gesh

    July 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Really, you have to subvert the English language for only one of two reasons. A you can't spell or B you are too lazy to type whole words. The new "text language" is really quite pitiful.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katelyn

      Yes, she has legally adopted 4 out of 11. The others are adults however. And no, she would not be paid for taking care of children she adopted. Foster parents are paid a stipend for care they provide to foster children. Adoptive parents are not. Also, her mother had adopted the children. Her parental rights cant just be "reinstated" after that. Her rights could have been reinstated, however, if her children had not been adopted, but were instead wards of the state living in foster care. The state could then reinstate her rights. You don't seem to grasp foster care vs. adoption very well at all, let alone civil rights and why you can't just sterilize people because you want to.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • eg

      1) Christine, We don't forcibly sterilize people in this country because we don't like the way they live. That's called eugenics, and most people are not supportive of that. If someone doesn't think you live right, would you be ok with being sterilized against your will?

      2) Learn to spell. It will improve your job prospects.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Please find a Special Needs class near you soon

      It's difficult to even know where to start here, but I'll give it a try. Letters and numbers are not interchangeable. Fun fact!: There is actually a word "ludicrous" from which the rapper Ludacris took his name. This is another good example of things which aren't interchangeable. Also, you should probably be careful when wishing for mandatory sterilization to become the law of the land because you may be quite a viable candidate for that procedure in the eyes of some.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yosemite sam

    whether it s crack (no i dont use) or cardboard crack (tickets) or whatever addiction one may be suffering from, my point is this. Everybody has their vice. And, by vice I mean everybody has something they do to extremes. That's right, you need balance. In order to have balance you need God in your life. You can either pray to God for strength to do the right thing, or you can say whatever and self destruct. Everyone has choices.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alienmom

    @cpope and the truth.This woman can only be an inspiration to you if you are addicted to something yourself.Those of you who think I am cruel,why don't you incur the expense of these innocent children .The lifelong disabilities they didn't ask for cost society more money than you can count.Not to mention the lifestyle they lead often steers them down the same addiction path.By allowing this to continue we perpetuate the cycle of dependence on drugs and the government.maybe you do not pay taxes.Almost half the people in this country do not pay taxes.So i will just guess you re among that bracket.Do you really believe that JESUS wants these children to suffer.Interesting that JESUS stops them in their tracks only after they have done so much damage.You are on something that's for sure.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      And I guess you're part of society that can't punctuate or use correct grammar to save you're life.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • nina

      @Michelle, that is so funny! You talk about his poor grammar and then go on to write 'you're life'. LOOOL

      July 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • nina

      @Michelle, that is so funny! You talk about his poor grammar and then go on to write 'you're life'.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      Yes, you are correct, alienmom. Anyone who doesn't agree with you is a drug addict who does not pay taxes. Following this line of assumptive logic, I'm sure that you have a misspelled and historically inaccurate placard to make and a Tea Party rally to attend, so you better get going.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. minerbob

    I can't put my finger on it but doesn't this negate the judicary power of government. IE the judercy sentances jo blow to jail for doing a crime, but they make another law to negate that punishment.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • marc

      The flaw in your point is that when the kids are taken away it's not to punish the mother but to help the kids. If the mother gets better and the kids lose their adopted parent why not let them go back to mom. Assuming the mom is no longer a risk which they will definitely verify during the adoption process.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. alienmom

    @ marie,that's all well and good.You know this continues because addicts know they have a crutch.that crutch is WELFARE.Every state needs to go the way of Florida and drug test every welfare applicant,not just in the beginning but periodically.then pull the funds.Problem is the way it is set up now,they are issued a debit card and the cards are refilled auto every month.They milk the system and there are too few people to monitor it and they are not encouraged to out abusers because of the liberal vote.Wake up people,this did not exist 40 years ago because we didn't have such lax systems.People were responsible for themselves. Gov't handout have hurt black families more than any thing in our history.No doubt of the 11 kids there are at least 6 different fathers who have never contributed a dime.He knew the gov't would raise his seed too.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • marc

      your wrong, addiction doesn't exist because welfare exists. Look in 3rd world countries, no welfare and plenty of people addicted to one drug or another.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hangtownie

    Glad she was able to turn her life around – However I gotta ask how a person who can't take care of themself is allowed to have 11 kids! This country need birthing laws. Octo mom would be another great example of a person that allready can't afford the 6 kids she allready has but needs another 8 kids.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lacie

    Recovering from an addiction and rebuilding your life is hard work. She worked for her redemption, and she deserves it. God bless her.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Wat

    Being a crack addict would make you a less than ideal parent to 1 child let alone, let alone, count with me 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 children.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Vshda

    Awesome! Good for her! It would have been more awesome if she'd never been yet another black parent losing their kids to neglect/crime/drugs. Hope she can keep them.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Janetia

    What happened to the 11th child. They said she had one she never lost custody 4 she adopted and 5 she's wanting to adopt back. Yet they said she had 11 children. If one doesn't want to be adopted back it is understandable. Living with a drug addicted parent isn't easy.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark

    Good for her but she better not get an adoption tax credit.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lulu

    And this degenerate had 11 children?...scary!

    July 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tamra Peterson

    Praise God for you and your family Ms. Miller and other families out here with the same situation! God is a God of restoration! I love how he works! It may not happen when you expect but He ALWAYS comes through and answers prayers if it is His will, and a restored family is His WILL!! I am so proud of you and your obedience. Some people may disagree with what you did and are trying to do. Keep praising God on the mountain and in the valley and anyone and everyone else will see Him Work!!! God Bless!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. conservativesoutherngal

    Some states provide regular assistance to parents that adopt special need children, just like they do for foster children. If Illinois has such a program, I hope it won't apply to these adopted biological children. If so, the "disadvantaged" will be able to take advantage of yet another well intended but poorly thought out system.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
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