The Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) is a government-implemented initiative in the UK that pairs specialty nurses with new families that may be at risk of child abuse. The scheme was adopted to combat the growing number of kids registered as "children in need" as a result of abuse or neglect. Last year, the number stood at 170,000.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham now claim the £10 million government program has only been effective for 10 percent of the families in which children are mistreated. Forensic psychologists Professor Kevin Browne and Vicki Jackson also suggest more practical methods for dealing with the pervasive issue.

"The claims made about FNP to reduce child maltreatment in England have been over exaggerated. Careful consideration needs to be given to other prevention programmes that are tailored to the needs and vulnerabilities of the family," said Browne, Professor of Forensic Psychology and Child Health at the University's Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology.

FNP was originally an American brainchild that was eventually adopted by the UK government and introduced to 10 carefully selected areas of England. Families fit the criteria of young, first-time parents from low socio-economic backgrounds. The team's statistical analysis claims this description only encompasses a quarter of families who need some kind child-rearing intervention.

Three hundred and fifteen UK community health nurses are currently enrolled in the partnership, a number that is expected to swell to roughly 585 by 2015. According to the government's data, there are around 30,000 families each year considered "in need," which would require the aid of close to 1,350 nurses.

In order to take more appropriate steps toward child abuse prevention, both Browne and Jackson suggest emphasis to be placed more on a history of domestic violence in the family and especially among the parents when they were children.

"It is vital that families with a history of domestic violence are not ignored by health professionals as it regularly presents the highest relative risk for child maltreatment. It is also cited in 46% of child abuse and neglect referrals to police child protection units," Browne explained.

The research paper was featured in the online publication Journal of Public Health.