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Celebrating Your Child's Adoption

The day you adopt a child is a defining moment in your family's life, so why not mark the date the way you do birthdays or anniversaries? Celebrate Gotcha Day.

The tradition, which a Boston couple began 15 years ago when they had a celebration with family on the adoption anniversaries of each of their three kids, has grown in popularity ever since, thanks to word of mouth and mentions in books.

Families have devised their own unique rituals to mark the occasion. Peggy Northrop and Sean Elder, of Brooklyn, have a quiet "family day" with 5-year-old Franny. Every year, after celebrating with ice cream cake, the family looks at photos and retells the story of the first day they met 5 1/2-month-old Franny. Last year, when Liane and Lowell Wagner, of Dayton, adopted their three foster sons—now ages 4, 5 and 7—they held a ceremony in their front yard based on the concept of a wedding. Joined by about 80 friends and relatives, the family exchanged adoption promises and gold rings. This year they're planning to spend their second Gotcha Day at the amusement park where they "honeymooned."

Constance and Brian Lemon, of Chicago, celebrate the date the adoption papers were signed for each of the three children—now ages 3, 5 and 7—they adopted from Paraguay by flying that country's flag and eating its cuisine. "It reminds me to be grateful," says Constance.

Don't be surprised if your child doesn't embrace Gotcha Day every year. "It's always a huge celebration for parents, but kids may have mixed feelings," says Joyce Maguire Pavao, director of the Center for Family Connections, in Cambridge, MA, and New York City. Understanding more about what it means to be adopted—and that it makes them different from their friends—can make emotions fluctuate. Also, kids who remember their birth parents generally have a harder time on Gotcha Day than those who don't. "Sometimes it's best to acknowledge that the kids may not want to celebrate," says Pavao.