Edna Gladney or Georgia Tann?
To understand the 2007 legislative efforts in Texas with HB525/SB221 in the light of US adoption history one must look at the work of two former Gladney Center employees, both prominent figures in US adoption history for different reasons: Edna Gladney and Georgia Tann. Here are a few points of comparison between Georgia Tann and Edna Gladney:
Both Edna Gladney and Georgia Tann were employees for the Texas Children’s Home in the 1920’s.
Edna Gladney was the director for the Texas Children’s Home from 1927 until 1950 when the home was renamed after her.
Georgia Tann was director for the Tennessee Children’s Home from 1924 until 1950 when the home was closed down due to the child placement scandal.
Both women were acclaimed and respected in their day as national leaders in adoption practice. Both placed thousands of children, many with the rich, powerful, and famous.
Both of them had movies made about their work in adoption.
Both movie titles are about the children served: “Blossoms in the Dust” (1941) and “Stolen Babies” (1993).
Edna Gladney was played by Greer Garson who won an Oscar for her performance in “Blossoms in the Dust”.
Georgia Tann was played by Mary Tyler Moore who won an Emmy for her performance in “Stolen Babies”.
Research continues into the life of Georgia Tann with the newest book published in April, 2007: "The Baby Thief, The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption," by Barbara Bisantz Raymond. As described by Mike Wallace, this book tells "A chilling tale of greed that 60 Minutes first broadcast back in 1992, but that continues to this day."
There is no known published recent research into the life of Edna Gladney, only the images from "Blossoms in the Dust" upon which the conclusions on this page are based.
Georgia Tann's agency was kicked out of the Child Welfare League of America due to her abuse of children.
Edna Gladney's agency were proud members of the Child Welfare League of America until after her death when they left. To this day the Gladney Adoption Center does not support the policies recommended by the Child Welfare League of America on the rights of adoptees to their own birth records.
Edna Gladney pushed legislation through the Texas Legislature in 1931 to improve adoption by providing adoptees privacy from the general public, but not from their birth parents.
Legislation to keep the birth records of adoptees secret from the adoptees themselves did not happen until 1973, 12 years after Edna Gladney's death. She would have stopped that legislation if she had been alive (unless her image portrayed in “Blossoms in the Dust” is false.)
It is recommended to anyone concerned about adoption that they watch both these movie classics and read "The Baby Thief." Then study Texas HB525/SB221 now before the Texas Legislature. Do we need to continue the current laws in Texas so as to keep secrets from the very people in whose "best interest" adoption is supposed to exist?
Question: Which of these movies show a leader in adoption practice who would most vehemently be against HB525/SB221?
Answer: It would certainly be Georgia Tann who had much she wanted to hide under sealed records. Her abuse of children through the sealed record system was the main driving force behind adoption reforms passed in Tennessee in 1995 to change that sealed record system and give access to their own birth records back to adult adoptees.
The Edna Gladney we know from "Blossoms in the Dust" dedicated her life to making life better for adoptees, not trying to hide her own actions behind sealed adoption records. If she were here today she would be fighting day and night to help adult adoptees regain access to their own birth records, an access they had when she was alive. She certainly agreed that there should be no disadvantage to being adopted. She would certainly agree that sealing from adoptees their birth records, in a process that was supposed to be in their “best interest,” makes no sense.
Due to the critical need for accurate genetic information, which is expanding every day, if Edna Gladney were alive today she would be actively working to immediately restore these basic rights to adult adoptees.
Every year current adoption record laws remain on the books in Texas, more adoptees will suffer and needlessly die. Adoptees die from not knowing their accurate medical history, a history more easily known if original birth records are available to help make contact with birth relatives. There is an ever expanding set of medical and health related questions to be asked as medical research advances and medical events in life happen.
Sadly, HB525 and SB221 have now both died in the 2007 legislative session in Texas. If you live in Texas please contact your Texas legislators to support similar legislation in 2009. They can be located online at the Texas Legislature Online.
Bill Betzen LMSW (Emeritus)
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if any error is noted on this page, or if questions remain.
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