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  1. JONATHON R SIBERT, Professor of Community Child Health

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    Homeless Children: Problems and Needs. Edited by Vostanis P, Cumella S. (Pp 202, paperback; £15.95.) London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999. ISBN 1 85302 595 X

    Homeless children have clear needs in their health, education, and welfare that are increasingly being recognised as being of great concern. This book brings together contributions from a number of sources outlining their problems and some possible solutions.

    Much of the book is based on a longitudinal study in Birmingham of homeless children and their families. This study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, largely focuses on the mental health and social problems of the children.1 The book also has a series of vignettes of homeless families and their problems—many are harrowing. Much of the book is compelling reading to anyone who is interested in promoting child health and welfare. The book covers fields of child mental health, domestic violence, the impact on social services, and education. The impact of homelessness on a child's schooling described by Sally Power and colleagues demonstrate the “double disadvantage” of being homeless and the difficulty of maintaining a school place for these children. There are also sections on housing legislation and homeless adolescents.

    The main gap in the contributions is one of clinical child health. The contribution from Kath Hutchinson, a health visitor, would be augmented with the collaboration of a community paediatrician. The question that I think paediatricians would like to have answered is whether homeless children are uniquely disadvantaged or whether they form one end of the spectrum of poor children. The data from the Birmingham study suggest the former; however, there were only 29 control families in their study compared to 113 homeless ones. In conclusion, Stuart Cumella and Panos Vostanis produce a series of well thought out recommendations for government, both national and local, to improve the problem. They recommend designated sessions for paediatricians to work with homeless families.

    This is a useful inexpensive book that would be helpful to all those working in child health. Nevertheless, it is perhaps an example of how child psychiatry and paediatrics are not collaborating nationally. I find it difficult to envisage producing a multiauthor book like this without the help of a paediatrician.

    Homeless Children: Problems and Needs. Edited by Vostanis P, Cumella S. (Pp 202, paperback; £15.95.) London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999. ISBN 1 85302 595 X

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