"Gotcha Day" is a phrase that denotes the anniversary of the day on which a new member joins a family in the adoption process. It is sometimes also called "Homecoming Day","Family Day", or "Adoption Day" - although the date can be different from date on which the legal adoption is made final. 'Gotcha Day' is often associated with annual rituals or celebrations, much like a birthday. There is contemporary debate that the tradition and especially the phrase gotcha is offensive to adoptees. The International Association Of Adopted People discourages the use of the term because of the recent history of kidnapping and forced adoptions.
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 day itself has mixed connotations; "Most international adoptions happen fast once you’ve completed the mountain of paperwork and have finally gotten clearance to go meet your child. The kids are often handed over to their new parents swiftly with a quick run-through of care and feeding instructions. And if you’ve ever seen a baby unceremoniously dumped into the arms of a stranger, you know just how badly they react to it."
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."
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- Papile, Suzanne Buckingham Slade ; illustrations by Christopher; Sandage,, Mary; Washburn, Odelia Witt ; photographs by Chris (2007). Adopted : the ultimate teen guide. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 4. ISBN 081085774X.
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