The 2001 book, Primary Care Pediatrics, noted that adoptive family are rarely present for the child's birth and recommended a celebration "additional to the [birthday celebration, that is, the 'gotcha day'." Margaret Schwartz, in her book The Pumpkin Patch, declared September 15, 2005 as International Gotcha Day. Schwartz used the term in reference to her international adoptions where the legal adoption occurred separately to the children physically joining the family. Spectrum Press subsequently endorsed and publicized the movement.
Gotcha Day can include cakes and presents like those of a birthday to broader celebration as a means of raising community awareness to normalize adoption. "Gotcha Day" greeting cards are widely available and personalized "Gotcha Day" souvenirs have become a cottage industry. Re-telling the story of the child's arrival, as part of the family legend, is often highlighted. If the child was adopted from another culture, traditional food and music may be incorporated.
Some celebrate with a "happy Gotcha Day" cake or give a small present, like a keepsake for their adopted daughter’s charm bracelet. Others go out for a nice dinner, invite friends for an "adoption day" barbecue, or take a special family photo.
The arguments for celebrating, especially with international adoptions, include that it is a "firm date in history" whereas exact birthdays and early milestones may be less sure. It also marks the day a family came physically together, separate from the legalities; ""We gotcha" is a phrase that acknowledges when another way of life began. Simply saying "Adoption Day" does not differentiate between our children’s placement and finalization dates, so "Gotcha Day" is a less confusing name for us."
Arguments against include the opinion that it puts the focus on the adult’s experience of events and demeans that of the adoptee. "'Gotcha' for parents means 'lost-ya' for children who have been separated from familiar faces, smells, surroundings." Adoption occurs after loss and abandonment and marking the day of transition can heighten those feelings. Other arguments focus on the word 'gotcha', which can have a 'gloating' tone. Author Karen Moline, a progenitor of the argument against the term, wrote "What does this term imply? We use it when we grab someone who is running from us, or when we save someone from something, or when we're playing a game."
- al.], Carol Green-Hernandez, Joanne K. Singleton, Daniel Z. Aronzon ; contributors, Harvey W. Aiges ... et (2001). Primary care pediatrics. Philadelphia: Lippincott. p. 73. ISBN 0781720087. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Crooks, Lauren (September 12, 2005). "Celebrating Love". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
- Schwartz, Margaret L. (2005). The pumpkin patch : a single woman's international adoption journey. Louisville, KY: Chicago Spectrum Press. ISBN 1583741186. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Moline, Karen (2014). "Get Rid of "Gotcha"". Adoptive Families Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Turner, Lynn (2006). Family Rituals. The family communication sourcebook. Sage. ISBN 978-1-4129-0992-1. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- Seligmann, Linda J. (2013). Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption Across Race, Class, and Nation. Stanford, California: Stanford Univ. Press. p. 249. ISBN 0804786054.
- Temple, Sheila (2011). Gotcha day : a celebration of adoption. Bloomington, Ind.: CrossBooks. ISBN 1615078258.
- Biziou, Barbara (November 1, 2010). The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living. Cosimo Books. p. 196. ISBN 978-1616404673.
- Urist, Jacoba (November 7, 2013). "'Gotcha Day' Celebrations Spark Debate Among Families Who Adopt". Today. NBC Universal. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
- Moline, Karen. "The Great 'Gotcha' Day Debate". Adoptive Families. Archived from the original on August 10, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
- Brian, Kristi (2012). Reframing Transracial Adoption. ; Adopted Koreans, White Parents, and the Politics of Kinship. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press. p. 151. ISBN 1439901848. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
- Milbrand, Lisa (November 19, 2013). "National Adoption Month: Should You Celebrate Gotcha Day?". Parents. Retrieved November 17, 2018.