Who Am I to Judge? The Question of the "Good Enough" Parent

By Diane Cole

May/June 2019

Review: The Not Good Enough Mother. By Sharon Lamb. Beacon Press. 

"I take children away from their parents. Sometimes permanently.” That’s psychologist Sharon Lamb’s blunt description of her work evaluating the fitness of parents who’ve already lost, or are at risk of losing, custody of their children. It’s her job, as a consultant and expert witness for the Vermont Department of Children and Families, to advise what’s best for these kids. Opioid addictions have cost most of these parents their rights to their children, but in most cases these mothers and fathers are sincere in their desire to turn themselves around. They hope to become dependable, drug-free caregivers, capable of providing safe, stable family environments.

Still, the responsibility of deciding about the custody of a child makes Lamb uncomfortable. She can only predict the best outcome, not ensure it. No matter the hours she spends observing, interviewing, and testing children, their biological parents, and their foster or prospective…

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