Rethinking “Gotcha Day”

Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”

Many adoptive families choose to celebrate and recognize the day their child’s adoption was finalized or the day they became legally a family. It is an important milestone in the journey for the family and the adoptee. However, at Hope’s Promise, we have been discussing new ways to mark this occasion appropriately, sensitively, and without the much-used old terminology of “Gotcha Day.”

We are always striving toward accurate and neutral adoption language as well as continuing to listen to adoptees’ experiences of adoption. Through listening and learning, we are finding that the term “gotcha” is not accurate or neutral. For the adoptee, the day they joined their new family also is a day that they forever left their birth family’s care and/or homeland. As with many things for adoptees, there is both/and – both joy and grief.

We have come to wonder if “gotcha” seems to either gloss over the loss of birth family or gloat over the joy of the adoptive parents. Some adoptees feel that this language sounds a bit like abduction or not being sensitive to the power structure of adoption. Adoptees have no power over any of the decisions that so dramatically changed their lives. In terms of relinquishment, we choose not to use the terms “give up” or “keep” because it objectifies the adopted person. In the same way, “gotcha” can objectify the adoptee.

Does this mean families cannot celebrate the day they became a family? By no means! But we would suggest using the term Adoption Day or Family Day, which is more accurate and neutral than the language “Gotcha Day.”

Want to learn more? Here are some articles from multiple perspectives we encourage you to read about this issue that helped inform our thoughts:

https://adoption.com/adoption-day-to-celebrate-not-some-flaws-in-gotcha

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/gotcha-day-isnt-a-cause-f_b_6094206

https://web.archive.org/web/20140810150801/http:/www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=1266

Podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/id/podcast/episode-11-no-more-gotcha-day/id1521163323?i=1000490570717&l=id