HIDDEN ADOPTION HISTORY: MOTHERS V GLADNEY 25 YEARS AGO

There’s a lot of hidden adoption history in the US, besides hidden pregnancies, sealed records, and secret adoptions.

Below is a bit of that history from Jo Anne Swanson and a request for follow-up: the 25th anniversary of the stand-off between Gladney and Barbara Landry, who refused to turn her baby over to it.

I’ve never heard of this case and I’d love to know more. If you know something or you’d like a set of new articles on the case, you can contact Jo Anne at joswanson@jamadots.com

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the stand-off at Gladney by Barbara Landry, who refused to leave the home without her baby girl. She claimed coercion in her court case, but of course Gladney managed to dispute that claim and still got her child, as they always do in court cases. The Fort Worth Star Telegram covered the story for months, complete with photos, including some of Gladney picketing by Barbara’s supporters.

While this case was going on, another mother, Ellen Breeding, was emboldened to file against Gladney, too. She lost, as well. (Edna Gladney below right)

Does anyone know where either of these two mothers could be located now?

It just seems like an excellent opportunity to get some press on these stories on the 25th anniversary of these events. The fact that, at that time, mothers (or their families) were required to pay what amounted to extortion to retrieve their infants from Duncan Memorial Hospital plays into this story. (This practice was completely legal in Texas at the time – it has since been disallowed under Texas adoption laws.) Gladney’s then-attorney, Bill Schur, claimed the home would ‘only’ have charged Barbara $67 per day for her keep at the home during the time she spent there if she had not signed relinquishment papers. (Thus Barbara’s 94 day stay would have tallied $5,922.) Then Eleanor Tuck, Gladney’s executive director, said that Barbara would have had to pay $2,061.80 in medical bills and $463 in nursery bills. Add these three figures and you get $8446.80. This would explain why Barbara signed the papers despite being offered help from her parents, who had been unaware of her pregnancy and delivery until after the fact when she grew bold enough to call them. How, she must have reasoned, could she burden her parents with this astronomical debt?

Adding to the horror of these situations was the fact that the anti-abortion organization Birthright was referring pregnant women to Gladney auxiliaries around the country, who in turn paid airfare to send them to Fort Worth, allegedly without Birthright’s being aware that these women were thereby trapped into surrendering their infants.

Great story here. It would be too bad to let this year pass without a follow-up. I feel certain the Star Telegram would love to do a follow-up if we could find either Barbara or Ellen and get their permission.

Jo Anne

P.S. I have a pdf compilation of a few of the news stories on these cases I’d be glad to email to anyone interested.

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8 thoughts on “HIDDEN ADOPTION HISTORY: MOTHERS V GLADNEY 25 YEARS AGO

  1. The following is the opinion of the Texas Court of Appeals in Landry’s suit against Gladney.

    J.

    Tex.App. 2 Dist.,1984.
    B.A.L. v. Edna Gladney Home
    677 S.W.2d 826

    OPINION

    JORDAN, Justice.

    In this termination of parental rights case, the appeal is by the mother of a child born out of wedlock at The Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth on February 10, 1984. Suit was filed by the Home on February 13, 1984 to terminate the parental rights of B.A.L., mother of the child, and those rights were terminated by the trial court on February 22, 1984, after the mother had executed an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights before two witnesses and a notary public on February 14, 1984. Motion for new trial was filed by appellant on March 9, 1984, amended on March 23, 1984, and heard by the trial court for two full days beginning April 16, 1984. On April 19, 1984, the court overruled the amended motion for new trial and appellant now complains by eleven points of error of the action of the trial court in terminating her parental rights and in overruling her amended motion for new trial. The hearing on the amended motion for new trial was to the court alone and no findings of fact or conclusions of law were either requested or filed.

    The natural father of the child signed a waiver or disclaimer of any interest in or rights to the child, which waiver was filed with the court on February 21, 1984, before the mother’s parental rights were terminated. He is not involved in this appeal.

    We affirm.

    B.A.L., a nineteen-year-old girl from New York, pregnant and unmarried, after first considering then rejecting plans for an abortion, was referred to The Edna Gladney Home by a referral organization known as Birth Right. She left her family home in New York without disclosing to her mother or two sisters, or anyone else in her family, the fact that she was pregnant and entered The Edna Gladney Home on November 8, 1983. She resided there, with her pre-natal care and all her living expenses paid for by the Home until her baby girl was born February 10, 1984. She was counselled and assisted by social workers at The Edna Gladney Home. Although B.A.L. testified at the hearing on the amended motion for new trial that the emphasis was on adoption while she resided at the Home and now claims on appeal that she was overreached and unduly influenced, there was considerable testimony that all her options were explained to her and she was given the clear choice of either keeping her baby or having it placed for adoption by the Home. The trial court, sitting as the trier of fact, accepted the testimony that she had a clear choice.

    None of B.A.L.’s immediate family knew of her condition until February 8, 1984, when her mother received a letter from her advising her of her situation. On February 9 she talked to her sister Lucille and her mother, both of whom assured her of their support and her entire family’s support. Another sister, Maria, was not advised of her pregnancy at that time. At all times after these several telephone conversations, appellant knew that she would have her family’s support if she wanted to raise the baby and not have it placed for adoption.

    After the birth of the baby on February 10, 1984, the mother, on February 14, executed the affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights, before two witnesses and a notary public, Elaine Brown, an employee of the Home. The relinquishment affidavit, which B.A.L. admitted she read and understood, stated, among other things, that she felt it was in the child’s best interest that it be placed for adoption, and she could not meet the child’s physical and emotional needs as a parent. The relinquishment affidavit also contained this language typed in bold, capitalized letters:

    I REALIZE THAT I SHOULD NOT SIGN THIS AFFIDAVIT UNTIL I HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD EACH WORD, SENTENCE, AND PARAGRAPH IN IT. I REALIZE THAT I SHOULD NOT SIGN THIS AFFIDAVIT OF RELINQUISHMENT IF THERE IS ANY THOUGHT IN MY MIND THAT I MIGHT SOME DAY SEEK TO ESTABLISH OR REESTABLISH ANY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHILD.

    She admitted at the hearing on the motion for new trial that she knew at the time she signed the affidavit that if she entertained any thoughts at all about keeping her baby and raising it she should not sign that affidavit, and that “once I signed, that was it”.

    She also testified at the hearing that when she signed the relinquishment affidavit, she believed it was best for her and for her baby to sign it and give the baby up for adoption, and before she signed the affidavit she never told her caseworker or anyone else at the Home that she was considering keeping the baby.

    Appellant’s primary attack on the judgment of the trial court, contained in her first four points of error, is that the trial court erred in overruling her amended motion for new trial because the evidence “raised fact questions” for the trier of fact with respect to The Edna Gladney Home’s use of undue influence over her in “their methods of granting her aid,”“in the way of bringing up expenses,”“in taking advantage of her youth and emotional distress,” and by overreaching appellant by requiring her to sign the relinquishment affidavit four days after the birth of her child. These contentions are not only rather vaguely stated but the arguments in the brief are cloudy and unclear.

    Even if appellant is correct in her assertion that the evidence raised fact questions on the issue of undue influence and overreaching, those fact questions were decided against her by the trial judge sitting as the trier of facts.

    Appellant seems to argue that because the Home aided and abetted her by furnishing medical care and financial support for living expenses and because she was young, alone, pregnant and emotionally distraught that there “is a possibility of undue influence,” and that the Home “overreached” her by having her sign the relinquishment affidavit four days after the birth of the child.

    In answering the argument of appellant as to undue influence and overreaching, we must decide from the evidence in the record of the hearing on the motion for new trial if there is sufficient evidence to support the judgment of the trial court and its implied findings of fact in support thereof. In a trial to the court where no findings of fact or conclusions of law are filed or requested, the judgment of the trial court implies all necessary findings of fact in support thereof. Burnett v. Motyka, 610 S.W.2d 735, 736 (Tex.1980).

    Where the implied findings of fact are supported by the evidence, it is the duty of the appellate court to uphold the judgment on any theory of law applicable to the case. Lassiter v. Bliss, 559 S.W.2d 353, 358 (Tex.1977); Ellis v. Waldrop, 627 S.W.2d 791 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 1982), rev’d on other grounds, 656 S.W.2d 902 (Tex.1983). This is so regardless of whether the trial court articulates the correct legal reason for the judgment. Gulf Land Co. v. Atlantic Refining Co., 134 Tex. 59, 131 S.W.2d 73, 84 (1939); Rheiner v. Varner, 627 S.W.2d 459, 462 (Tex.App.-Tyler 1981, no writ).

    These implied findings may be challenged by “no evidence” and “insufficient evidence” points and when so challenged, the standard of review to be applied by this court is the same as that to be applied in the review of jury findings or a trial court’s findings of fact. Appellant here does not challenge the trial court’s judgment on either of these points; she simply says there was evidence to support findings of undue influence and overreaching. She says “if there is the slightest possibility of undue influence the court must order a new trial.” This is just not the law.

    The question of whether there is sufficient evidence in this case to support the judgment of the trial court must be based on whether that evidence is “clear and convincing”. It has been held that a judgment to terminate involuntarily a person’s parental rights must be based on clear and convincing evidence and not on the Family Code standard of preponderance of the evidence applicable to custody cases. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 747-48, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 1391-92, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982); Richardson v. Green, 677 S.W.2d 497, (1984); In Interest of G.M., 596 S.W.2d 846 (Tex.1980).

    In support of her contention that she was unduly influenced by The Edna Gladney Home at the time she signed the relinquishment affidavit, B.A.L. cites Methodist Mission Home v. N…. A…. B…., 451 S.W.2d 539 (Tex.Civ.App.-San Antonio 1970, no writ), which affirmed a jury finding in the trial court that the execution of the relinquishment affidavit by the appellee in that case was unduly influenced by the placement agency. However, in Methodist Mission Home, the parent, according to the evidence, had been subjected to an intensive five-day period of campaigning designed to persuade her to give up her child. We do not have that situation in this case. Id. at 540.

    The court in Methodist Mission Home, said that what constitutes “undue influence” depends on the particular facts and circumstances of each case viewed in the light of applicable principles of law. Id. at 543. The court also said “[i]t may be conceded that calling to the attention of an unwed mother the considerations which tend to show that her best interest, and that of her child, would best be served by placement of the child for adoption cannot be branded as undue influence, even though she is thereby induced to give up her child.” Id. at 543. Influence cannot be branded as “undue” merely because it is persuasive and effective; the law does not condemn all persuasion, entreaty, importunity, and intercession. Robinson v. Stuart, 73 Tex. 267, 11 S.W. 275 (1889).

    After reviewing the record of the hearing on the motion for new trial and viewing it in the light of the standards set forth above, we have no trouble in holding that there was clear and convincing evidence to support the judgment of the trial court and the findings of fact necessarily implied to support that judgment. Under this evidence it is obvious, and the trial court was clearly entitled to find, as it did, that appellant signed the relinquishment affidavit voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly, she was aware that she could keep her baby if she so desired with the full support, financial and otherwise of her own family, and she made her own choice to place the baby for adoption without any undue influence, pressure or overreaching on the part of The Edna Gladney Home. The evidence shows plainly that this young girl changed her mind and decided she wanted to keep her baby only after she talked, after the birth of the baby, to her sister Maria in New York. Maria insisted B.A.L. could retain the baby and raise it herself if she would just tell the Edna Gladney people that was her desire.

    The situation here with respect to the signing of the relinquishment affidavit is no different than the one before the Supreme Court in Brown v. McLennan County, Etc., 627 S.W.2d 390 (Tex.1982), where it was said the affidavit clearly set out that appellant was relinquishing all parental rights; suit would be filed to terminate her rights; and the act (relinquishment) was irrevocable. Id. at 390. The court also said while it recognized the parent-child relationship as a basic civil right due a high degree of protection, that when a parent voluntarily terminates this parent-child bond, the best interests of the child become paramount. Id. at 393. “Once that child has been surrendered to a licensed agency for adoption, the safety, education, care and protection of the child, not the contentment or welfare of the parent, is of utmost importance …. Children voluntarily given up in compliance with the Family Code, as was done in this case, cannot be snapped back at the whim of the parent.” Id. at 393-94. (Emphasis added.)

    The essence of an “undue influence” claim is overcoming the free will of an individual and substituting the will of another, thereby causing a person to do an act which he would not otherwise have done. Rothermel v. Duncan, 369 S.W.2d 917, 922 (Tex.1963). “Overreaching” is tricking, outwitting, or cheating a person into doing an act which he would not otherwise have done. There simply is no evidence in this record that The Edna Gladney Home overcame the will of appellant or tricked, outwitted, or cheated her into doing anything she would not otherwise have done. She had decided to relinquish the baby and have it placed for adoption before she first contacted the Home. She continued to plan on adoption for the child after entering the agency in November, 1983, right up to the time of signing the relinquishment affidavit and surrendering her parental rights to her child. That was her decision and hers alone. She changed her mind after the baby was born and after talking to her sister Maria. Points of error one through four are overruled.

    In her fifth point of error, appellant says that a new trial should have been granted because the notary public who notarized her relinquishment affidavit was an employee of The Edna Gladney Home. Appellant’s theory on this point is again rather vague and unclear but she seems to contend that Elaine Brown, the employee-notary public had a financial interest in appellant’s execution of this affidavit. The evidence does not support this contention, but shows instead that the notary was a salaried employee of the Home, that her salary was fixed and in no way related to the number of affidavits she notarizes, and that she is neither an officer or director of the Home. Appellant’s argument on this point has been rejected in Director, Dallas County Child Welfare v. Thompson, 667 S.W.2d 282 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1984, no writ). Point of error five is overruled.

    By her ninth point of error appellant argues the trial court erred in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem or an attorney ad litem for the child at the hearing on the motion for new trial. Appellant contends that TEX.FAM.CODE ANN. sec. 11.10(a) (Vernon 1975), requires such an appointment, unless, among other things, the court finds that the interest of the child will be represented adequately by a party to the suit and is not adverse to that party. We note that B.A.L. does not complain of the failure of the court to appoint a guardian ad litem at the original termination hearing. The termination judgment itself includes a recitation that “the interests of the child have been and continue to be adequately represented by petitioner (The Edna Gladney Home) and are not adverse to that of Petitioner ….” The mother of the child did not request the appointment of a guardian or attorney ad litem to represent the child at any time before filing her brief in this court, nor did she request findings of fact or conclusions of law with respect to the new trial proceedings.

    This court has previously held, in a similar fact situation involving the surrender of a child for adoption where a relinquishment affidavit had been signed by the mother, that the trial court did not err in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child. In Interest of D.E.W., 654 S.W.2d 33, 34 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 1983, writ ref’d n.r.e.). The cases cited in appellant’s brief in support of this point of error are all distinguishable from the case here. Most of those cases involved termination of a father’s rights on grounds of non-support, and did not involve voluntary relinquishment, as here.

    We hold that in the absence of a request for the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the child at the new trial hearing, and in the absence of a request for written findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court did not err in failing to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child or in failing to make written findings of fact concerning the adequacy of the child’s representation at the new trial hearing. Point of error nine is overruled.

    By her point of error eleven, B.A.L. claims that because her termination of parental rights case was heard along with seven other such cases at the same time, with the evidence presented at the hearing applicable to all eight cases, she has been denied due process of law. It is true that on February 22, 1984, eight cases involving termination of parental rights following execution of relinquishment affidavits were heard at once. We point out, however, there was testimony from a caseworker from the Home to the effect that: in each of the cases before the court at that time the child’s mother was either unable or unwilling to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs; neither the mother or father of the child was able to provide a suitable environment for the child; and in each case each parent of the child had by his or her actions clearly demonstrated that adoption would best meet the child’s needs. Further, B.A.L., in the relinquishment affidavit, stated that she could not meet the child’s physical and emotional needs as a parent and it would be in the best interest of the child if it were placed for adoption. (Emphasis added.) She also said in the affidavit that she did not want to testify at the termination hearing and that she waived service of process, return of citation and notice in the suit.

    We hold under the circumstances of this case, and in view of the testimony with regard to each case involved and in view of the relinquishment affidavit, appellant’s right to due process of law was not violated. Point of error eleven is overruled.

    Other points of error raised in appellant’s brief all relate at least generally to her first four points of error, with respect to undue influence and overreaching, and have been previously adequately discussed in this opinion. All remaining points of error not here specifically written upon are overruled.

    The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

  2. we opened our hearts to a little girl born on 1-12-76. She was beautiful. She blessed our home for 6 months. In July of 76 Edna Gladney came in and took her away.There is not a day that we don’t think of her. We loved her so much.

  3. I remember this story well. I also formed the opinion that what occurred was that she was willing to put her child up for adoption, not wanting her parents to find out, then AFTER SIGNING the papers,
    once she told her parents and found
    they were not as upset as she’d thought, decided then she wanted her baby. I believe she said she had been coerced and medicated!
    The fact that she was appalled that she would “have to pay such a fee to get her baby back” is a joke. It’s called hospital bills that most do have to pay when having a baby—or did she expect the couple that had anticipated the child they believed they would recieve to still pay the bill so she could keep her baby without having to pay any expenses (including that for months of room and board as well as being tutored in school)
    My opinion has not changed over the years. She changed her mind AFTER putting her child up for adoption, placing the blame on the staff of Edna Glaneys. rather than admit she only had a change of heart after informing her parents.
    Before anyone assumes that my opinion must be biased for some reason—I’ll admit it is. I was one of the birthmothers at Edna Gladney. We were given the best of care. We were also well informed of the process of the adoption.
    The majority of us were still in high school (and though it’s become common now for high school girls to “keep their babies”–society has had a major change since there has been an increase in “children raising children”)
    They did explain to us the hardships that would be infolved in being an underage single parent.
    Is doing so coercement (when it’s the same thing anyone would say..parents, schools, etc)?
    They also told us it would be hard to place a child up for adoption and something that would affect us the rest of our lives.
    In this, we were told it was a major decision, but one only we could make. They even pointed out that it was our decision and to not let anyone sway it.
    As for “being medicated”…I’d asked for an aspirin and was given a cold rag for my forehead instead being told we could not have any medication (including aspirin) for 24 hours before signing the papers.
    I seriously doubt the people on the staff changed that drastically
    to medicate and coerce her as she claimed.
    I know how hard that decision is to make, but you have many months to consider it. Each of us had our own reasons, and most were
    with what was in the best interest of our child. I also know that that
    “emotional distress” is not so much before signing the papers, but
    does hit afterwards. The finality of it brings about a heartwrenching
    emotion that cannot be explained to anyone who has not experienced it. But as hard as that is, it is not an excuse to change your mind
    after the fact as this girl had done.

    • You were not able to enter under a false name, however, once you entered you were given a different last name (it had to begin with the same letter as your real last name; example Mary Weber = Mary Watts.

    • Yes they did and many of us felt that we had been medicated. I was told that the director of Gladney at least in Fort Worth went on to be the directed for a psychiatric institute known as PI which would explain a lot since it was closed down years later for unethical practices.

  4. I have a friend who is looking for her birth parents, born in 1985 and adopted out through this facility. Her mom was 15 years old and her dad was 17. She just wants to know her history and DNA for medical problems and so on. Any suggestions would be apprecitated.

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