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. Jane

    I don't understand all the negative comments. She was an addict, she quit and turned her life around. She had lost cuatody of her children and then fought to regain it. She stepped up and took responsibility. Obviously that in an ideal world she would never have been addicted to drugs to begin with, but this isn't an ideal world and everyone is prone to making mistakes, some more than others. But she acknowledged that she was making a series of mistakes and bad judgements and worked hard to turn her life around. Isn't that what makes us better people? So why all the criticsm? There will always be addicts in this world, but the more that are able to follow this woman's footsteps the better, right? It would actually mean less people on welfare, so these are the kind of stories we should be hoping happened more often.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • icrabbidppl

      some people will never be satisfied. what she did was good and to be commended. but some people insist on being negative and making ugly comments.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sciihs1958

    Congratulations for getting your life back together and now being there as a legally recognized MOTHER for your children.

    Thank you for never wrapping them in a garbage bag, duct tapping their mouths n tossing them in a swamp.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Linda in AZ

    Good for her. It's nice to see that someone can turn their life around.

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

    What an awesome story. Good for you

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

    Good for her. People are not perfect but she chose to clean up. Major props.

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

    And guess who's paying for it all!!!!!

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

      not your broke asz!

      July 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wendy5

    thia makes me cry and i am so happy for this lady;

    July 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PentecostalTexan

    Thats really very admirable that she was able to quit crack. Im sure its not easy to do.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. unowhoitsme

    There's still hope...America! For people that WANT to change. Thanks for the great example, Yonlanda Miller!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shawn

    I am overjoyed with this. Many thanks to our awesome lawmakers who have given us this excellent law that allows parents to take care of their kids.

    This story made my day and I am so tearful with joy that I cannot even see what i type (sorry for any typos). Getting out to grab a napkin to wipe my tears of joy !

    July 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DWS

    I am desperately pleased that this women has, over time, changed her life for the better.

    I am hoping, however, that having adopted these children – hers, biologically – she is not eligible for any sort of adoptive-parent benefits.

    I don't know how that works, so no acccusation whatsoever, it just would taint what is genuinely a marvelous story.....

    July 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alienmom

    Interesting that there is no mention of a job or father for the 11th who would be max 10-11 years of age.Where is the responsibility there.She is probably still on welfare.Now she has grandchildren,big surprise.Addiction genes aside,for all you hard fast believers in God's work and one's determination,she still made a choice.I am sick of paying for all these children and the misguided choices their parents make. Good luck Yolanda because your kids and Grandkids have your genes too.

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

      Wow. Even Ayn Rand thinks that you're an angry @ss*&ole.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cody

    Did this woman seriously give birth to 11 kids in 7 years? She has "11 biological children, who range in age from their late teens to mid-20s". So we have the "two eldest daughters, 24-year-old twins," and two who are still minors but "late teens", which to me implies 17 years old. That's 11 kids in 7 years. Couldn't her mom have slipped her some birth control while she was high? Sheesh.

    July 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cody

      Oh, maybe I misunderstood that sentence. Maybe it's just the 4 children she is adopting that range in age from late teens to mid-20s," not ALL of her children.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim

    Good for her. She got her life back together and she's trying to get her family back together.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ asia:
    The plural of racist is racists.
    One cannot always go by the way a word sounds to him.
    If you want to criticize others for racism, learn to spell the words concerning the matter: otherwise you give the racists ammunition.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
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