Many of you have heard of the term “Gotcha Day” over the years, and it seems like it isn’t going anywhere. For those new to this term, Gotcha Day is a day our adoptive parents have picked to celebrate, reflecting the day our adoptions are finalized.
While I think many of them might have good intentions, this term is problematic for many reasons. I write this article to offer another viewpoint from an adult adoptee. I don’t wish to throw anyone under the bus if you choose to celebrate this day. While I have read many articles written by adoptive parents, why they choose to celebrate this day, and even an article or two from a biological mother, I have not read an article focused on an adoptee’s perspective.
I decided to share my feelings on this topic in this article. Let me be frank, my adoptive parents didn’t celebrate this day, and I am exceptionally thankful for this. However, after building relationships with adoptees worldwide for over a decade, I have experienced a lot of thoughts on “Gotcha Day.”
One dynamic that I would like to bring to light is that any child enjoys a celebration 99.9% of the time. If our adoptive parents decide to celebrate “Gotcha Day,” the adopted child is along for the ride. Kids don’t generally turn away from a party. This is when our grooming to celebrate the day we are adopted begins. Celebrating this day as a child might feel good.
Our adoptive parents have all the power to celebrate or not celebrate the day we legally became adopted. While they likely see no issue with it when we are children, we must not forget the adopted child grows up.
In 2018 I completed a poll on the How Does it Feel to Be Adopted? page and the question were for adoptees, and it said, “Adoptees, Are you in favor of the term “Gotcha Day?”
377 adoptees responded, and 95% said that “No” they were not in favor of the term Gotcha Day.
You read that right, 95%!
Adult Adoptee, Sarah says:
“I DESPISE it. It was referred to as my ‘Gotcha Day” and always involved a present, much like a birthday. It symbolized a day that sealed my fate of never returning to my biological family. Having it celebrated felt like my adoptive family was disregarding my biological family and my feelings about not being with them. My adoptive mom still celebrates it and brings me a present which I usually throw in the closet for months before opening, or I give it back to her.”
Another Adult Adoptee, Chris, says:
“My family did not celebrate it as I was growing up. I don’t care for the term “gotcha,” as it does feel like ownership. And while I understand that it may be a cause for celebration for the adoptive parents, it’s also a day of loss for the adoptee, even if they are not aware of the loss.”
While I can completely understand the feelings of these two adoptees, I share similar sentiments. I feel that if I were in a position to celebrate this day as a child with the terminology “Gotcha Day,” it would be a dehumanizing experience I likely wouldn’t fully understand as a child.
As an adult, I feel it belittles what someone separated from their biological mother has to lose to become an adopted person. It glosses over the reality we all experience. Do those who celebrate this day understand what we lost before they “GOT US?” Our biological mother and father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, ancestry, culture, language, medical history, memories, and the list could go on.
I personally would be mortified and resentful if my adoptive parents groomed me to celebrate this day. For me, it was the day I lost everything! To be expected to celebrate it, would be a cruel thing to have to do and I find it insensitive to be encouraged to do so.
Our lives don’t begin the moment we are adopted.
So we have a [his]-story and a [her]-story, which are essential to our lives and experiences. So celebrating “Gotcha Day” solely focuses on the day we are adopted and not what we lost to get to that point.
Some families are using “Adoption Day” or “Family Day” instead of the dreaded “Gotcha Day.” While I respect the need to want to celebrate such a wonderful day in the new family, I must share that no matter how you slice it, you can’t deny the reality of what the adoptee lost to gain a new family.
I say we get rid of these celebrations altogether.
However, if you decide to host them, let’s be honest and have a day of mourning the day before or the same day, so we equally acknowledge all the adopted person has to lose before the adoption ever takes place. If we’re authentic, honest, and accurate, we must acknowledge this as part of the adoptee story, and it happens FIRST.
The sooner an adoptee begins to grieve the losses they have experienced, the better. Therefore, I suggest all adoptive parents become experts in The Grief Recovery Method for kids and learn as much as they can as an adoptive parents and apply it to the adopted child’s life. In addition, finding an adoptee-competent therapist would be beneficial to all involved.
I hope this helps clear up how adopted adults feel about celebrating the day we were adopted, specifically “Gotcha Day.” It’s particularly despised in the adoptee community. I genuinely believe that once we know better, we do better, so I hope this article shares some insight that can be helpful.
To my fellow adoptees, what are your thoughts on this topic? Did you celebrate “Gotcha Day” and if so, how do you feel about it now? For those who didn’t celebrate it, how do you feel about the term and celebrating adoption day?
Thanks for reading and listening!
Pamela A. Karanova
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*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova