Using aggregated national data, this paper compares outcomes of Australian ‘child protection’ (CP) and Norwegian ‘child welfare services’ (CWS). We highlight each nation's context and key elements of their CP/CWS organizations, with emphasis on policy and programme orientation. System outcomes are examined along with the implications of their different approaches. The main policy focus in Australia is protection and risk, while Norway's systemic approach stresses prevention, early intervention and support. These differences influence practitioner's intervention strategies and how the needs of children and parents are met. In Norway, approximately 80% of the children in the CWS receive some sort of supportive services. In contrast, Australian services for supporting families are narrowly targeted. Both countries share the ‘best interest of the child’ principle and an increased focus on children's rights, and have experienced increased service demands and rates of children in out-of-home care. The paper explores the relative merits of these systems.