Research exploring inequalities in UK child welfare interventions has produced counterintuitive findings with respect to Northern Ireland (NI). Despite experiencing the highest levels of deprivation, NI also displays the lowest rates of children in care of all the UK nations. With reference to wider evidence in the field of child welfare inequalities this article details the findings of two exploratory mixed methods case studies, located within NI Health and Social Care Trusts. Drawing on the narratives offered by child and family social workers, a series of possible explanations for NI’s significantly lower out of home care rates are considered. We suggest the operation of intersecting factors at multiple levels, including: social work systems and practices, early help systems and structures, communities and families. These findings extend understandings of NI’s out of home care rates, whilst raising broader questions for social work research and practice.