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New law helps mother regain custody

Twdaughters Rachell Pouncey RashundPouncey 27 jotheir mother YolandMiller who was able adopt four her children last week. Miller's is first

Twin daughters Rachell Pouncey and Rashunda Pouncey 27 join their mother, Yolanda Miller, who was able to adopt four of her children last week. Miller's is the first case in which parental rights were restored to a birth mother whose rights were previously terminated by a court. Tuesday, July 5, 2011. | Brian Jackson ~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 27, 2011 12:31AM

After more than a decade of fighting her addiction to crack cocaine, Yolanda Miller wanted to reclaim custody of 10 of her children. Last week, Miller adopted four of them with the help of a new Illinois law.

The law, sponsored by state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), offers a process for birth parents to regain custody rights to children who were adopted by a relative.

The rehabilitated Miller is the first parent to be reunited with her children under the new legislation.

In Miller’s case, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed 10 of her 11 children more than 14 years ago because of Miller’s chronic substance addiction. The children were placed in the custody of their grandmother, who died in 2005.

“I knew it wasn’t my mom’s job to raise my kids; it was my job,” Miller said. “So I did what I had to do to get them. I got my life back together.”

Previously, birth parents who lost custody were not able to petition for their legal rights, said Linda Coon, Miller’s attorney who helped draft the legislation. This meant that even if the children were returned to their parents, they remained legal orphans.

With the 2009 passing of the law, there is now a legal path in place for birth parents like Miller who want to take responsibility for their children, Feigenholtz said.

“These are parents who have done exactly what society has asked them to do,” Feigenholtz said. “This is exactly what should have happened. This is a mom whose time had come.”

Miller’s 16- and 17-year-old sons are now in her custody, and her two twin adult daughters have been legally adopted as well.

“It’s really amazing to be with my mom,” said Rachelle Pouncey, 27. “This love is strong and happy. We’ll never leave her side.”

Yolanda Miller has plans to adopt five more of her adult children.

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