The Children's Medical Center of Dallas was established in 1948 as an umbrella organization to coordinate the activities of several previously existing children's health-care institutions located near each other on Maple Avenue, in the Oak Lawn section of Dallas. The oldest unit was a hospital serving infants up to age three, founded in 1913 in four tents on the grounds of Parkland Hospital as the Dallas Baby Camp by May Forster Smith and the Dallas County Graduate Nurses Association. On May 16, 1914, the Baby Camp moved into a permanent frame structure on the hospital grounds, where it remained until 1930, when it moved into a new building designed by James B. Cheek at the corner of Maple Avenue and Turtle Creek Boulevard. Because the new facility had been made possible by a $100,000 gift from Tom L. Bradford, Sr., the Baby Camp was renamed Bradford Memorial Hospital for Babies. The second unit to become a part of the Children's Medical Center was the Presbyterian Clinic, an outpatient clinic organized in 1921 by Dr. Jack Perkins and Rev. William M. Anderson. It was originally housed in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas and subsequently acquired a new home in 1924 at the corner of Maple and Welborn streets. The facility was renamed Richmond Freeman Memorial Clinic after the son of the principal donors, Mr. and Mrs. Percy R. Freeman, Sr. The third organization, the Children's Hospital of Texas, opened in 1940 next door to the Freeman Clinic under the leadership of R. B. George.
These three facilities were joined in 1948 by the Ivor O'Connor Morgan Hospital for Tuberculous Children, which occupied a special wing of the Children's Hospital building. During the 1950s the four institutions slowly merged their administrative structures, and in 1967 they moved into a new complex adjacent to Parkland Memorial Hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Several subsequent expansions allowed the Children's Medical Center, by the mid-1980s, to admit more than 9,000 inpatients annually and to attend over 115,500 outpatient visits. Children's has pioneered numerous medical procedures for children in Texas, including pediatric day surgery (1968), pediatric liver-transplant surgery (1984), sleep-disorder care (1987), preventive cardiology (1987), and pediatric heart-transplant surgery (1988). The medical center retains a close relationship with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; the chairman of the school's department of pediatrics serves as chief of staff at the center. In 1985 a holding company, Children's Health Services of Texas, was established to provide strategic planning, marketing, and management support. The same year Children's Medical Foundation of Texas was formed as the fund-raising and fund-management arm of the hospital.