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Publisher's Summary

A psychologist who evaluates the fitness of parents when their children have been removed from their custody finds herself reassessing her own mothering when her son falls victim to the opioid crisis.

Psychologist and expert witness Dr. Sharon Lamb evaluates parents, particularly in high-stakes cases concerning the termination of parental rights. The conclusions she reaches can mean that some children are returned home from foster homes. Others are freed for adoption. Well-trained, Lamb generally can decide what's in the best interests of the child. But when her son's struggle with opioid addiction comes to light, she starts to doubt her right to make judgments about other mothers. 

As an expert, a professor, and a mother, Lamb gives voice to the near impossible standards demanded by a society prone to blame mothers when anything befalls their children. She describes vividly the plight of individual parents, mothers in particular, struggling with addiction and mental illness and trying to make stable homes for their kids amid the economic and emotional turmoil of their lives - all in the context of the opioid epidemic that has ravaged her home state of Vermont. In her office, during visits with their children, and in the family court, the parents we meet wait anxiously for Lamb's verdict: Have they turned their lives around under child welfare's watchful eye? Do they understand their children's needs? In short, are they good enough? But what is good enough? Lamb turns that question on herself in the midst of her gradual realization of her son's opioid addiction. Amazed at her own denial, feeling powerless to help him, Lamb confronts the heartache she can bring into the lives of others and her power to tear families apart.

©2019 Sharon Lamb (P)2019 Beacon Press

Critic Reviews

“The writing is engaging, and Lamb’s professionalism is evident, but what mostly shines through is her empathy, sympathy, and deep concern for her clients, both children and adults.... This honest look at how society judges parents, mothers in particular, deserves a wide audience.” (Booklist, starred review)

“She maintains an open-hearted compassion toward mothers battling similar addictions. At the same time, she shows just how tough some decisions can be when lives are on the line. In a concise book, Lamb ably demonstrates the challenges and pitfalls of passing judgment in such an imperfect world.” (Kirkus Reviews

“This is the sort of book that begs to be read all at once, in a trance partly fueled by the egotistical longing to see ourselves, our own childhoods and less-than-good-enough mothering, reflected in Lamb’s analysis. With the perfect ratio of warmth and X-ACTO precision, Lamb cuts to the tender pink of everything that can go awry in the parent-child covenant.” (Seven Days

What listeners say about The Not Good Enough Mother

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I loved the honesty in this book

I really liked this book. I was one of those "not good enough" mothers 20 years ago. I was an addict and was judged by all to be unfit to raise my 2 and 3 year old babies. It was devastating. I did not disagree, however, when the children's therapist recommended to the court that my two toddlers would be better off with another family. The therapist and the social worker sat on either side of me in court, holding my hands as I choked out the words "I submit." I relinquished my parental rights and it was the most heart-wrenching decision of my young life.
The author's compassion for parents who struggle with addiction combined with her focus on the best interest of the children involved is refreshingly non-judgemental.
End note: I have been 100% clean and sober for 17 years now. No Suboxone crutch, no relapses. My children, now ages 22 and 23, sought me out as soon as they became adults. We picked up right where we left off, albeit with 15 years of catching up to do.

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Professional and Personal Story of Assessing the Good Enough Parent

A very but will talk about the difficulties in evaluating the best interest of the children and the fitness of parents in the context of Juvenile receiving. The trials and tribulations of opiate addiction and recovery, both as an observer of parents and from a personal perspective of parenting a child with opiate addiction, demonstrates an intimate understanding of the challenges involved.