This article draws attention to the importance of routinely collected administrative data as an important source for understanding the characteristics of the Northern Ireland child welfare system as it has developed since the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 became its legislative base. The article argues that the availability of such data is a strength of the Northern Ireland child welfare system and urges local politicians, lobbyists, researchers, policy-makers, operational managers, practitioners and service user groups to make more use of them. The main sources of administrative data are identified. Illustration of how these can be used to understand and to ask questions about the system is provided by considering some of the trends since the Children Order was enacted. The “protection” principle of the Children Order provides the focus for the illustration. The statistical trends considered relate to child protection referrals, investigations and registrations and to children and young people looked after under a range of court orders available to ensure their protection and well-being.