The proposed Children in Families First Act of 2014 (CHIFF) would have injected $240 million into the transnational adoption industry. Animated by dubious assertions that 200 million children are “stuck and forgotten, living in orphanages,” the CHIFF campaign featured racialized images of “the most vulnerable children in the world” who “need families.” Using a comparative lens centered on ideologies of vulnerability and rescue, I seek to account for the elision of economic, social, and political conditions of precarity within three sets of legal and legislative debates: adoption involving an “Indian child”; the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act; and same-sex marriage. Based on analysis of legal and policy texts, I consider how discourses of racialized vulnerability and the “best interests” of the child, in tandem with the reconsolidation of the nuclear family in recent applications of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and immigration legislation, orient attention toward assimilation of children and away from the conditions by which children become systematically vulnerable. I contend that the focus on parental relationships and behaviors relegates violence to the past, re-instantiates the equation of racialized vulnerability with parental “irresponsibility,” and symbolically uplifts (queer) couples and nations that “rescue” vulnerable children.


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pp. 60-85
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