What is Gotcha Day in Adoption?

What is Gotcha Day in Adoption?

Gotcha Day in adoption is a complex celebration that needs to be handled with care. We’ll take you through it — including the controversy that’s very much a part of it.
If you’ve heard the term Gotcha Day in an adoption context, you may already know that it comes with a fair share of controversy.

Opinions are certainly divided here, with some people believing it’s a special way to celebrate a new addition to a family, and others that it’s an offensive concept that should be done away with.

So what is Gotcha Day?

And why is there such mixed thinking around it?

We’ll take you through the meaning, significance, and history of this disputed term — and key you in on why some people are not fans of it.

Let’s dive in.

In this article: 📝

  • What is meant by Gotcha Day?
  • Who started Gotcha Day?
  • Why is it called Gotcha Day?
  • What do you say instead of Gotcha Day?

What is meant by Gotcha Day?

Adoption “Gotcha Day” is the day — and all its subsequent anniversaries — when an adopted child or pet comes into your life.

For families adopting a child, Gotcha Day can mark the day they meet their child for the first time, the day the adoption is finalized, or the day they officially join their family.

Adoption can be a challenging process, filled with huge emotional highs and lows.

And when it finally comes through, it can certainly feel worth celebrating.

Hence the desire to mark the occasion.

Who started Gotcha Day?

The term has been used in adoption circles for a few decades.

The first official International “Gotcha Day” took place in 2005.

It was the brainchild of Chicago Spectrum Press as part of the promotion for Margaret Schwartz’ book The Pumpkin Patch: A Single Woman’s International Adoption Journey.

The idea behind the day was to raise awareness about adoption and support a growing community of families on the journey.

In particular, it became a way to explore the joys and complexities of cross-cultural adoption.

Ways to mark the occasion include putting together a photo album of your time as a family, telling stories of your experiences together, and preparing food from the country the child is originally from.

But while this celebration intends to cultivate community and connection, it’s not without its critics.

Why is it called Gotcha Day?

Quite simply, it’s called Gotcha Day because it’s the day you can say I “gotcha” (or I “got you”) to your adopted child.

For some, this can sound endearing — a way of showing that you’ve found one another and expressing your new bond.

But here’s where the controversy comes in.

“Getting” someone is not necessarily the nicest way to talk about growing a family.

Research has explored the danger of the “commodification” of the adoption process — essentially “getting” a child just like you would “get” a new car or appliance.

Adding international adoption into the picture can raise even more questions.

Can you pick up a child in the same way you would pick up a souvenir on a trip abroad?

It’s not hard to see how easily this language can become dangerous.

But it’s not only a language issue that makes this celebration problematic.

It’s the fact that some might find it painful to celebrate an adoption anniversary at all.

While celebration may be a part of adoption, there’s a lot that is left out of the discussion when we speak only in terms of what is gained.

Adoption also comes with grief and loss, an issue even more relevant in cross-cultural processes.

As adoptee Sophie Johnson writes for the Huffington Post, Gotcha Day can leave kids “sad and confused.”

While parents may be celebrating finally “getting” the child they’ve dreamed of, kids are navigating several mixed emotions — some of which are deep loss and pain.

The idea of having to put on a big smile and celebrate can feel at best inauthentic and, at worst, deeply hurtful.

What do you say instead of Gotcha Day?

If you would like to celebrate the day your child came into your life, but Gotcha Day doesn’t feel like the right term, you can call it an “adoption anniversary” or “family day.”

Adoption is a uniquely special, utterly life-changing beginning.

It’s also never without complexity.

Whether you say Happy Gotcha Day! or not, we wish you all the best in this adventure ahead.

And if you need support along the way, your Peanut community is here for you. You don’t have to do this alone.

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