Most countries in Southern Africa are similar in providing some form of cash transfers to families with children, primarily to reduce child poverty, but there are striking variations in the categories of children targeted and the reach of social grants. Namibia adopted South Africa-like child grants during South Africa rule. Namibia’s child welfare regime, like most other regimes in Southern Africa, started with and maintained a strongly familial child welfare regime (CWR), focused on children living in families with only one or no parents present. Whereas South Africa, after its transition to democracy, introduced a Child Support Grant (CSG) - that expanded massively the reach of child grants - Namibia did not do likewise. This paper investigates why Namibia did not follow South Africa’s lead, instead expanding pro-poor provision later and more slowly through the Vulnerable Grant, introduced in 2014. Structural factors – including especially AIDS-related demographic changes – intensified need within ‘broken families’ but the enduring emphasis on familial provision reflected not so much need as domestic politics, especially the electoral dominance of the ruling SWAPO party and a disintegrated and weak domestic civil society. The eventual adoption but slow expansion of a pro-poor grant demonstrates the embrace, by the ruling party SWAPO, of new forms of social protection, facilitated by international development agencies.