Graying Adoptees Still Searching for Their Identities

"The two of them hadn't seen each other in 60 years," said Strauss, who told the story in her short film, "The Triumvirate."

"It's given me a tremendous sense of freedom," Miklosey said in the film. "I can say, this is my daughter and my granddaughter and look at the world and say I have a family."

Strauss also learned she had seven brothers and sisters and for the first time found others who "biologically related to me." Tragically, a younger brother died of lymphoma, a new relationship she lamented was cut short because of the secrecy of adoption.

"I can't tell you how it changed me to find out the information," she said. "I felt so empowered by it and it's what drives me to help other people to have the truth."

The "stigma of illegitimacy" that sealed up records has disappeared, notes Strauss, but the world is "much different now."

Across the border from Kansas in Missouri, an adult adoptee must have the the adoptive parents' permission.

"Can you imagine being 40 or 50 years old and having to get permission?" she asked. "You have to prove your adoptive parents are dead. If you jump through those hoops and contact the birth parents, they have to give permission. If you are 50, the odds are pretty high that your birth mother is dead."

In the most restrictive states adult adoptees must pay court and lawyer fees to show cause why their birth certificates should be released.

"It's a capricious process where some judges say, 'sure' and others say, 'no way, even if your life is threatened," according to Pertman of the Donaldson Institute.

"People in all 50 states every day are finding their birth parents through the Internet, Facebook and private detectives," said Pertman. "So what's the argument and if you don't believe they are evil people, why not just give them to them."

As for Carol Cook, she still longs to know who she is -- so much so, that she has recently ordered a DNA kit to at least find clues to her genetic roots. Though even if the law passes and she can get her birth certificate, Cook said her parents are likely dead.

"Everyone knew I was adopted except me," said Cook. "I think that has affected me in some ways. I find it difficult to trust people, It's not overt. I just can't get real close to people…I couldn't let the rest of my life fall apart but it would be nice to know if I can find something out."

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