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Mom says life of crime is over, wants children back

An unusual case is unfolding in a Chicago, Illinois courthouse. On the surface it is a simple case of a mother wanting her children back. On second look, it is the case of a mother with a troubling criminal record and her two adopted little girls -- and a judge who must decide whether returning them to their mother is in the best interests of the children.

The mother admitted in court that she had run a brothel for two decades. During that time, she used drugs and drank, she said. But, the 52-year-old testified, she is done with that life. She no longer uses drugs or drinks, and she has returned to school (she wants to be an addiction counselor). Finally, she said an inheritance affords her considerable financial stability. She will never have reason to resort to the sex trade again.

Police raided the woman's west suburban home in December 2010. It was then that authorities took the two girls, now ages 3 and 9, into custody. They have been living in foster care ever since.

Authorities -- including the girls' social worker and court-appointed guardians -- argue that the woman's parental rights should be revoked. The girls should stay in foster care, they say, for a number of reasons. First, there is evidence that the woman did not shield the two girls from the sex trade, as she claims. Second, the woman's 16-year-old biological daughter helped to manage the business, a fact that, for them, says she is not fit to be a parent.

While they say she hasn't made enough progress toward being a responsible parent, she claims she knows herself much better now. She had an enormous ego and very low self-esteem, she told the court. In the past year or so, she has grown "ethically and morally" and is certain that she is ready for her girls to come home.

The woman and the social worker disagree about the children's wishes. The judge will have to decide if he wants to meet with the older girl to learn more. He will make that decision by April 27.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times, "Convicted madam tears up testifying about adopted daughters being taken away," Kim Janssen, April 12, 2012

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