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Estherville birth parents say adoption was best decision; son found them after 26 years

November 17, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Editor's note: This is the first in a series on adoption for National Adoption Month in November. The next installments include adoptees who found their birth parents, and a father who adopted children from foster care and said he, "wouldn't change a thing.

When Keith Adams and Sally Breuer relinquished their newborn son for adoption, they knew his name: his adoptive parents named him Daniel John. They also found out he was taken to the opposite side of the state to reduce the chance of paths crossing.

The names Daniel and John were strong in both the Breuer and Adams families with an uncle, a grandfather and a brother.

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"The funny thing is, he had family here," in the Estherville and Spencer areas," Sally Miller said.

Miller and Adams were 16 and just 18 years old when Daniel was born in Estherville. Making an adoption plan was a decision Miller said was "mutual among the six of us," herself, her parents, Keith and his parents.

Miller was the tenth of 11 children in the family. "My mom had been through enough," Miller said.

Miller said, "I was kind of a 16-year-old old soul. I knew this had happened for a reason, and I never doubted the decision for adoption."

Adams, as a birth father, discovered he did have a fatherly instinct from the start.

"I always worried. Not that he was being taken care of, because I trusted he was, but what would be the impact on Dan's emotional state when he thought about being adopted, and that his birth parents had given him up," Adams said.

Miller said, "I knew it was the right thing, but it messed me up for a while as a teenager. It was certainly the right decision, but it was very hard."

In the adoption circle, the birth father is often left out. Yet in the U.S. there are millions of birth fathers, those who have fathered children, but are not now raising them: enough to be an entire subculture. The emotional cost of adoption on birth fathers is just now being explored. The adoption establishment of faith-based, private and state-run placement agencies has traditionally seen birth fathers as an afterthought, according to Susan Applington, an attorney who works on adoptions through Catholic Charities.

"Until the mid-1970s, unmarried fathers were not even necessarily parents, legally, and their names were most often left off the birth certificates or listed as 'unknown,'" Applington said.

A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s and 1980s elevated the status of birth fathers, and around that same time open adoptions became favored for domestic placements over closed adoptions.

However, the Minneosta/Texas Adoption Research Project doesn't mention birth dads at all in its key findings. Pop culture generally leaves them out, too. In the movie Juno, aside from Juno's father expressing disbelief that the father "had it in him," he's mostly an aside to Juno's journey with her pregnancy and the adoptive parents.

Adams said he thought of Daniel John often, and it became especially prevalent when his own children entered high school.

"I thought, 'Well, Dan would already be out of high school. I wonder what he's doing now,'" Adams said.

Adams said, "To let a child go is a leap of faith. We had to trust in God that he would be okay."

Miller said the births of her own children provided some healing from Dan's adoption.

"All their milestones, from their first steps to the first day of kindergarten reminded me that I wasn't there to see those with Dan. Not a day went by that I didn't think about him. When you have a child, that child stays with you forever," Miller said.


Miller went on to marry for the first time in 1989, and the wedding announcement in what was then the Estherville Daily News is how Dan eventually found her.

"Dan said he searched when he was 18, because he was curious," Miller said.

Just as Sally and Keith knew their son was named Daniel John, Dan knew his birth mother's name was Sally Breuer.

"He had searched the directories for that name, but my parents were gone and there was no Breuer left in town to find," Miller said.

When Dan was 26, one of his relatives brought him a big stack of copies of the newspaper, and said, "If she married, it was probably close to these dates." Dan pored through them and hit on the marriage date in September, 1989, when Sally Breuer became Sally Hecht. When Dan looked at the wedding picture, the bride's smile looked very familiar.

The Hechts were listed, and Dan made the phone call. He got an answering machine.

Miller recalled, "My husband at the time retrieved the message. He came down stairs looking shaky like he'd seen a ghost. I genuinely thought someone had died."

Her husband asked her, "What was your first son's name?"

Miller said, "Then I knew."

After she spoke with Dan, she called Keith. Miller and Adams had remained friendly over the years, and their daughters were friends, not knowing they shared an older half brother.

When Dan called her, Miller said, "I just so wanted to see his face."

When they eventually met, Adams said, "That first hug was worth waiting for."

Dan's adoptive parents, Kay and Bob are "very nice people," Miller said.

Miller had kept a box including the blanket Dan was wrapped in at the hospital, pictures taken at his temporary foster home, hospital patient bracelets, and the newspaper from the day he was born.

"I was so happy to be able to give those to him," Miller said.

Adams said, "The end result has been fantastic. I wish this would happen for everybody. We waited 26 years for Dan to come back to us. I'm usually pretty laid back, but not with this."

"It's nice to say I have four children," Miller said.

Adams added, "He has a whole other family, and we do now, too."

Dan stays in touch with Miller's and Adams' families on social media and they see each other in person when it works out.

Today, November 16 is the anniversary of the day in 2009 when Miller received the phone call from Dan. It's also the day before Miller's birthday.

Miller and Adams agree. "I'm so for adoption as an option, and I wish more young people who find themselves in a situation would do it," Miller said.



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