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.