The etiology of child maltreatment is profoundly influenced by families’ well-being and by a complex network of social, community, and societal supports and policies. Racism embedded in these systems has led to large inequities in wealth and advantage, which in turn are widely believed to drive racial and ethnic disproportionalities in the child welfare system (ie, 1 group’s representation in child welfare being out of proportion with their representation in the general population). It has been recognized that a public health, multisectoral, and multifaceted approach is needed to substantially reduce child maltreatment in the United States. Yet, we too often look to the child welfare system to respond to these problems when it is neither positioned nor adequately funded to comprehensively address root causes of maltreatment and inequities.

The policy focus for child maltreatment in the United States has historically been more reactive than proactive or prevention-based. In 1971,...

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