(CNN)Growing up as an adopted child in Ireland in the mid-1960s, Noelle Brown didn't ask questions about her past.
It wasn't until 2002 that a chat with a friend prompted her to think that it might be time to investigate the circumstances around her birth.
Brown contacted a charity, which pointed her towards a nun it said could help. But she said the nun dodged her calls for months. When she finally picked up the phone, Brown says she was "rudely" told -- with no further explanation -- that she wasn't entitled to her personal information, but that she could come for counseling.
"I took it for granted that all I had to do was ask [for my information]," Brown told CNN. "I didn't realize I was setting off a chain of events that has taken up 20 years of my life."
More than 190,000 women and children are estimated to have been placed in mother and baby homes and "county homes" -- institutions where unmarried women were sent to deliver their babies in secret across Ireland for nearly eight decades.
Like many of the estimated 57,000 former survivors of those homes, Brown has struggled to find out what happened during her time in one of them.
On Friday, the five-year Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters -- established to investigate what transpired across 14 mother and baby homes and four county homes from 1922 to 1998 -- is set to finalize its report. It's unclear when it will be made public, but the government has said it plans to publish it as soon as possible.
Survivors like Brown have long hoped that the commission would reveal more about allegations of arbitrary detention, cruelty and neglect, forced adoption and vaccine trials that went on inside the homes, as well as hold wrongdoers to account.
They also hoped it would help them to access their personal records, including information about missing relatives and babies buried in unmarked graves.
Now, those hopes have been boosted by a dramatic U-turn from the Irish government on Wednesday evening, less than a week after passing a law that promised to seal the commission's archive from survivors and the public for 30 years.
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Roderic O'Gorman had initially said that the law was bound by the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004 "whose purpose is to protect a database created by the commission."
But following a groundswell of public opposition rallying against the law, the government changed its position, saying that survivors of the homes are legally entitled to access their pe