Community paediatrics strives to integrate the biology of health into the social and psychological worlds within which children grow and develop. Consumer demand for limited community paediatric clinical services is increasing and medico–legal pressures escalate professional and personal concern. Meanwhile, the profession, through training and professional support, has struggled to keep up. Research into community paediatrics and its integration into policy and clinical practice remains limited, raising the perception that it is a ‘soft’ science. Our viewpoint is that necessary progress in this field requires leadership, apprenticeship and research. We argue that to build firm foundations for the future requires structures to enable clinical specialisation and continuing professional development in this area.