exposing the dark side of adoption
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Hee Ja Byun (Lisa)

1962 Dec 29


US Catholic Committee for Refugees
Found by nuns on a street in Pusan Korea, she was placed in a Catholic orphanage until 1963 when at age 2, she was sent to the US to be adopted. At 4 years old, after her adoptive parents-to-be learned she was mentally retarded, her adoption paperwork was stopped. For 13 years after that, she was shuffled among foster homes and institutions, including 3 years in a Kentucky nursing home.

Hee Ja Byun or Hee Ja Byan, know as Lisa, spent 5 years as the lone, mentally retarded, socially deprived girl among 36 elderly women at St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital, which was not equiped  to help children learn.

In 1979, when she was 17 years old, a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the District government to send her to a West Virginia school for the retarded where, for the first time, she would receive personalized attention. In his order, the judge said "The experts agree that H.J.B. is both functionally and organically retarded. While it is possible that her brain has suffered some damage, most of the retardation probably developed from deprivation of cultural and family influence."


Title Publication date
Court Offers Hope to Retarded Girl, 17 1979 Apr 27
Retarded Girl Wins Ruling 1977 Jun 20