Where Hope is Born

The Gladney Center for Adoption celebrates 125 years.

by Gail Bennison

Whether placed with unselfish love by a birth mother, adopted from foster care or united with a family that traveled across the world, an adopted child is the hope of a new generation. The Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth has woven this hope into the hearts of almost 30,000 children over the years.

Once a local adoption agency, Gladney now serves families around the country and children around the world. It is a recognized leader in domestic and international adoption, maternity services, family support services and humanitarian aid projects.

Gladney has a storied history. During the late 1800s, while Fort Worth was becoming a cattle destination by way of the new Chisholm Trail, a minister named I.Z.T. Morris was creating a destination of hope for orphaned children.

Morris founded The Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society in 1887 to raise money and awareness of the destitute, abandoned and orphaned children of North Texas.

Edna Kahly Gladney’s father died in 1903, and her mother sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in Fort Worth. Eventually, she and her new family moved to Wolfe City, where she began a crusade to clean up a Grayson County poor farm.

After seeing the terrible treatment of the children there, she arranged for them to be transferred to Morris’ Children’s Home. She joined the board of directors for the Society in 1910 and started a free day care facility in Sherman that was self-financed.

In 1924, Gladney and her husband moved back to Fort Worth, and she became superintendent of the Aid Society three years later.

Gladney successfully lobbied the Texas legislature to take the word illegitimate off birth certificates and to ensure adopted children the same inheritance rights of other children. Gladney served as superintendent of The Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society for 33 years. After the Society acquired the West Texas Maternity Hospital in 1950, the Society’s members renamed it the Edna Gladney Home — now known as The Gladney Center for Adoption.

Texas Christian University gave Gladney an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1957. Gladney continued to help with plans for the Home until her death in 1961.

Gladney became a Fort Worth icon, captured in the 1941 classic movie Blossoms in the Dust starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Today, Blossoms in the Dust is celebrated with an annual luncheon and fashion show. This year’s event on April 10 will be the 48th.

Gladney Center is one of only a handful of U.S. adoption agencies with residential and community birth mother programs and three adoption programs — domestic, foster care and international.

“Signing the [adoption] papers was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but baby Moriah was going to have the stable life that I couldn’t give her,” said birth mother, Katelyn, age 18. On the other side of Katelyn’s equation is adoptive parent Cristina.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think that the journey to our daughter would be so beautifully written and change our lives so profoundly. She is a gift, and we are thankful to her precious birth mother for choosing us to raise and love her. It’s an honor and a joy,” she said.

Gladney is celebrating its anniversary throughout the year with festivities held around the world, culminating with a main event April 28. Planned is a fun-filled family day on the campus of The Gladney Center that includes entertainment, activities and food. The 125th Anniversary Gala at the Omni Downtown Fort Worth follows that evening.

Today, Edna Gladney’s passion for “serving the underserved” lives on in Gladney’s leadership, values and integrity.

“Mrs. Gladney laid the foundation for what Gladney is today. She inspired hope for the hopeless and strength for those most vulnerable. Gladney is proud to be 125 years strong,” said Frank Garrott, president of the Gladney Center.

FYI Gladney Center for Adoption Gladney is a pioneer in and voice for improving the lives of children, adoptive families and birth parents. 6300 John Ryan Drive Fort Worth, Texas 76132-4122 adoptionsbygladney.com 817.922.6000