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What is a Gotcha Day? Do You Celebrate a Gotcha Day?

Adoption Gotcha DayHave you ever heard the term “Gotcha Day” and wondered what it means? Or perhaps you currently celebrate a Gotcha Day and are looking for inspiration. Either way, we have you covered. In this article, we explore the wonderful (and sometimes controversial) world of Gotcha Day.

What is Gotcha Day?

“Gotcha Day is casual adoptive parent shorthand for the day my child came home,” writes Karen Moline, Adoptive Families. And it’s a fairly new term, first appearing in Margaret Schwartz’s book The Pumpkin Patch, where she declares September 15, 2005 as International Gotcha Day as in as in, “the day I got you.”

“Gotcha Day is an important part of an adopted child’s story,” says Amy Rogers of Bellevue, who adopted her daughter in 1999 and has been celebrating Gotcha Day ever since. “That day is as much of a miracle as birth.”

The idea behind Gotcha Day is all about the bringing together of families – celebrating the wholeness that adoption makes possible. “To those who love the name, it speaks of the joyfulness of the adoptive parents over finally getting to hug the child they’ve been hoping to hold for years,” says Lisa Milbrand, Parents. “And that the children finally get the family that they’ve been missing.”

Celebrating Gotcha Day

“For some families, adoption day is a big deal,” says adoption blogger Laura Christianson. It’s the day their family became whole – a moment some parents and children had dreamed about for years. “Honoring the actual day the family met, parents explain, normalizes adoption and reaffirms their unique commitment to their adopted child,” says Jacob Urist, Today. So, it should come as no surprise that many adoptive families celebrate their Gotcha Day with elaborate celebrations.

“Some celebrate with a ‘happy Gotcha Day’ cake or give a small present, like a keepsake,” writes Urist. “Others go out for a nice dinner, invite friends for an ‘adoption day’ barbeque, or take a special family photo.” There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the day your son or daughter came into your life, but here are a few ideas that may help make the day even more special.

Celebrating Old Memories

Use Gotcha Day as a time to share stories about your unique adoption journey. This can be as simple as sitting down with your child and talking about your experiences or as elaborate as a video journal or scrapbook to reminisce about your experience. Treat Gotcha Day as an opportunity to remind each other that your family is special.

Building New Memories

Gotcha Day is also a great opportunity to build new memories as a family. “Families have devised their own unique rituals to mark the occasion,” writes Michelle Lee, Parenting. Perhaps you can take a family photo each year to help remind you and your child about the wonderful circumstances that brought you all together. Or perhaps you can establish a new tradition, such as taking a trip each Gotcha Day to someplace special or throwing a Gotcha Day party with friends and family. No matter what you do, focus on the joys of family and the miracle of adoption.

Celebrating with Sensitivity is Important

Sophie Johnson, adopted child and writer for the Huffington Post, cautions families to be sensitive when celebrating Gotcha Days. She writes, “What’s missing from Gotcha Day is this: The acknowledgement that adoption is also about loss.” Johnson goes on to say, “It’s been said that adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where everyone expects the victims to be grateful and appreciative. I am grateful and appreciative, but I also want to remind people that someone’s happiness over building their family through adoption may also be someone else’s sorrow over losing their child for circumstances they couldn’t control.”

So, just remember to celebrate with sensitivity and ensure your celebration is something your child appreciates and enjoys. The last thing in the world you want is to make your child feel uncomfortable on what should be a joyous occasion. Some experts suggest trading the term Gotcha Day for something like Adoption Day or even Family Day – emphasizing the family aspect of this momentous anniversary and downplaying the loss.

Do You Have Questions About How to Talk to Your Child About Adoption?

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  1. Johnson, Sophie. “’Gotcha Day’ Isn’t a Cause for Celebration.” The Huffington Post,, 3 Nov. 2014,
  2. Lee, Michelle. “Celebrating Your Childs Adoption.” Parenting, 24 July 2014,
  3. Milbrand, Lisa. “National Adoption Month: Should You Celebrate Gotcha Day?” Parents, Parents, 10 Aug. 2015,
  4. Moline, Karen. “Trading “Gotcha Day” for “Adoption Day”.” Adoptive Families, 15 July 2016,
  5. Urist, Jacoba. “’Gotcha Day’ celebrations spark debate among families who adopt.”, TODAY, 7 Nov. 2013,
  6. “Ways to celebrate the adoption “Gotcha Day”.”,
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