When Hope Newsome gave birth to her son, Christopher, questions about her roots became more important to her than ever. Hope and her sister, Maryanne, were adopted as toddlers in Durham in 1974. Recently, the women placed an ad in local newspapers trying to locate their biological parents.
"The void of walking around and not knowing who you are or where you come from, it just gets worse," Newsome says.
The Internet has opened up a whole new world of search tools for adoptees, but online searches can be costly and fruitless. Under North Carolina law, the Department of Social Services was only able to give Newsome information that in no way identified her birth parents.
"They have a name, but they won't give it to you and that's aggravating," she says.
Newsome believes that adults should have access to their adoption records.
"As kids, we didn't ask to be given up, and we don't have any rights to know who they are," she says.
Under extreme circumstances, adoption files can be opened by court order in North Carolina. But most people start their search by writing the agency that handled the adoption and asking for non-identifying information -- anything from eye color to religious preference.
After that, many searchers end up hiring private investigators who specialize in this area. The laws vary from state to state. Some states have open records. Others provide registries where families can reconnect.