The Growth of Love by Dr Keith J. White

Review by Chris Hanvey

Quite a few years ago, with all of the arrogance of youth and certainty, I reviewed a book that Keith had written about Millgrove. Millgrove was a residential community, caring for separation and loss, that Keith and his wife Ruth have faithfully run and which both his father and grandfather did before them. At the end of the review, I asked what Millgrove was really about – wanting, I now suspect, to place it in some kind of hierarchy of children’s service provision. But, of course, Millgrove never did – nor ever will – conform to this kind of narrow analysis and its robust inability to do so partly represents its absolute uniqueness.

In The Growth of Love, Keith has answered my question. Not directly, because the book is far too subtle for that, but by coming at the question from a whole range of different angles.

The Growth of Love is at the centre of what childcare needs to be about. It sets out what Keith regards as the core of all commitment to children – security, boundaries, significance, community and creativity. By blending a lifetime of personal insight into the lives of distressed children and their families, with a deep understanding of childcare literature and a profound personal faith, Keith take the reader through a voyage of discovery of all of these five words in a way that students and experienced practitioners will find extremely thought-provoking and enriching.

Love is the glue which binds all of this together and the book is populated by the unconditional love that Millgrove has offered to children and families over the years.

At one stage, Keith describes Millgrove as a rock and its meaning only becomes slowly clear during the course of the book. It is fixed and immutable and a place which contains, holds and nurtures and a place to which people return and are immediately recognised. “It is”, as one old and experienced residential worker once said to me, “the long distance work that counts”, and Millgrove has provided this in abundance over generations. At one stage, Keith said that after 60 years, “I am coming to know this place for the first time”. In words that recall T.S. Eliot’s own in the Four Quartets:

“We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.”

What is Millgrove? Well, it is a unique round peg in a square hole that points the way that childcare could still be in 2008. It makes an unconditional commitment to children and young people offering security, boundaries, significance, community and creativity. But the greatest of these is the love it offers.

White, Keith J. The Growth of Love, 2008, The Bible Reading Fellowship

ISBN 9781841014616


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.