Gotcha Day is the term used for the anniversary of an adoption, coming from saying, “This is the day I gotcha!” While this day is also celebrated by parents of four-legged furry children, it is especially significant to parents who have adopted their human children—either privately or through foster care. While not all adoptive families celebrate this day, many do for different reasons.
Adoption is not a path for the easily scared away or weak of heart, and there are several different types of adoption. Familial adoptions and step-parent adoptions can be common, but are less often talked about. The most frequently discussed types of adoptions are private infant adoption and adoption through foster care.
In order to be considered by the government to be able to be an adoptive parent, prospective parents have to go through a grueling process of training, interviews, medical exams, and home visits. This process itself can take months, even close to a year, depending on your county and anything else you have going on in your life at the time. When you have been approved by your agency, then you get to “hurry up and wait,” as they say, to be matched to a child. When adopting privately, you create a book about your life that is shared with women looking to place their baby for adoption and hope for a match. In foster care, the licensing agency working with you understands what age/level of special needs you are looking to match with and will contact you when a child is either looking to move to a pre-adoptive placement or when a child is removed from their home. Either way, the matching process can take a long time, up to 2-7 years for a private adoption.
Knowing this, you can understand how grateful and celebratory the finalization of this process can be for adoptive families. During this whole time of matching and waiting, it’s important to also remember that the children are also waiting. For children in foster care, this can be excruciating, waiting for permanency.
Gotcha day is not just an excuse to have cake and a family party (although let’s be honest, that part is a lot of fun). Gotcha day is a day to celebrate being able to breathe again, knowing that you have a forever family that won’t change. When asked about his family’s Gotcha day celebration, Jackson (not his real name), a nine-year-old who was adopted by his stepfather when he was three, says that he likes “to celebrate that out of all the kids in the world, Daddy chose me.”
For adoptive parents, Gotcha Day can be a reminder of all the work that so any people did in order to make their family complete. Between handfuls of social workers, therapists, judges, and lawyers, so many more people touch the process of adoption than you can count on both hands. Most important is knowing that your child is irreversibly part of your family, celebrating that your child is a part of the fabric of your family structure forever, and nothing can change that.