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Pair Following Adoptive Procedure to the Letters

Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

There’s a young woman with a problem out there somewhere. But for Dan and Rose Ohlendorf of Santa Ana, she is a solution, and they are determined to find her.

They don’t try to picture what she looks like, or the circumstances of her predicament. All they know for sure is that she is pregnant with a child she knows she can’t bring up--the child they long for to fill the empty place in their otherwise full and happy life together.

The Ohlendorfs know that it won’t be enough merely to find this woman. Because there are several earnest, eager couples like them for each birth mother who is considering giving her child up for adoption, they know they have to sell themselves to her as the best possible candidates.

That’s why they have launched their own marketing campaign.

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Rose, 42, who works in marketing and communications, and Dan, 40, who is in sales and customer service, pooled their professional talents to put together a letter and resume, complete with catchy graphics and a color photo, that they have now mailed to 500 doctors, counselors, friends, anyone they can think of who might be able to help. They sent one of those letters to Family Life.

“Hi,” the letter begins.

“We would like to introduce ourselves--we are Dan and Rose Ohlendorf and are actively looking to adopt a baby. . . .

“We are seeking your help. . . .”

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The letter goes on to describe their backgrounds and success, which they say they want “to share . . . with a baby--to nurture, guide, encourage and grow. . . .”

And on a cover letter addressed “Dear Professional,” the Ohlendorfs ask the recipient to pass their resume along.

“You may think, ‘Who would I know?’ and put this letter aside. Please consider this--many adoption leads become known through neighbors, friends of neighbors, co-workers, friends, acquaintances . . . etc. Your neighbor’s sister’s co-worker’s daughter, or co-worker’s cousin’s friend could be in this position. . . .”

“It’s a marketing plan,” Rose frankly admits.

After 2 years of waiting and testing and waiting and more testing as doctors tried to find the solution to their infertility problem, the Ohlendorfs say it feels good to be taking an active role, even though they have had to abandon the hope they once had of creating a child themselves.

That is a common feeling, says their attorney, Linda Nunez of Tustin, who specializes in independent adoptions--about 150 a year--and has four adopted children of her own.

The Ohlendorfs tried especially hard to make their letter stand out. The cover letter features a silhouette of a stork with a bundle, and the resume page has two teddy bears hugging--Rose is a teddy bear collector--next to their signatures.

Some obstetricians, they have learned, get so many of these so-called “Dear Birth Mother” letters that they send back form letters, informing prospective adoptive parents that “we’ll keep your letter on file in the order in which it was received.”

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Still, the Ohlendorfs shouldn’t be discouraged, Nunez says. “The chances are excellent that they’ll have a baby in their hands within 6 months. They are doing it the right way. They’re aggressive, very knowledgeable, they’ve gone to counseling and are really prepared for this.”

For now, the Ohlendorfs have ruled out older or handicapped children, preferring to stick as close as possible to their original dream of having their own healthy newborn.

Although they did check in with several public and private adoption agencies, the Ohlendorfs say they don’t hold much hope for that route because so few babies are available through agencies and the wait can be years.

“They said we might have to wait 3 to 5 years,” Rose says. “And for Dan and me, that’s a long time.”

“Agencies are another resource to use,” Rose says. “But it’s a little intimidating. The agency places the child. In an independent adoption, the birth mother or birth parents choose the adoptive parents.”

The Ohlendorfs like the idea of open adoption, they say. “We feel like we need to develop some kind of relationship with the birth mother,” Rose says. But they aren’t sure how much contact, or what kind. “That’s something we’ll have to work out together when we find her,” they say.

Despite the common misconception that there is a “going rate” for healthy babies, Nunez says the Ohlendorfs can expect to pay only for the birth mother’s expenses and legal fees--a total that averages about $6,000. The birth mother cannot legally charge for the baby or her services in carrying and giving birth to the child.

“For most birth mothers, money is absolutely the last consideration. They just want someone who will love the child. And they don’t want to look back on this several years later and think they gained anything from it.”

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Although all medical or other payments are reported to the court when the adoption papers are filed, they are considered “an act of charity,” Nunez says. And that means that if the birth mother changes her mind at any point before the adoption becomes final--usually when the baby is about 6 months old--the adoptive parents cannot expect the birth mother to repay them.

But birth mothers rarely change their minds, Nunez says. “I’m selective about the birth mothers I work with,” she says. “I want them to go to counseling, not to talk them into or out of adoption, but to let them know before they are fully committed what to expect. They need to be ready for the bad dreams, the questions they’ll get from the general public, their future spouse, or their current spouse or boyfriend, their future children.

“But mostly, they need to know how to get through the first 18 months of grief. It’s like a death, except it doesn’t end. Choosing the adoptive parents is a way to have a kind of an end to it,” Nunez says.

If you know of a woman who is planning to place her baby up for adoption, call the Ohlendorfs at (714) 540-6642, Nunez at (714) 544-9921, or The Times at (714) 966-5600. Family Life will follow the couple as their story unfolds.


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