An inquiry into the best time children should be taken from the family home and placed into care has been launched by a Holyrood committee.
MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee will examine the decision-making process that takes place when social workers consider if and when a child should be removed from its home.
Committee convener Stewart Maxwell said the inquiry would help ensure "that we are making the best decisions for children who may be abused or neglected".
It comes after the committee carried out an investigation into the educational achievements of youngsters in care.
Mr Maxwell said during that inquiry it "became clear that there is a sensitive and difficult balance to be struck between supporting families at home and intervening to remove children from harmful situations".
He launched the committee's new inquiry on a visit to the Barnardo's Scotland Fostering Service in Edinburgh.
He said: "This inquiry is not about rushing to make judgments about the systems currently in place. It is about asking the difficult questions to make sure that these systems really are working for children and their families.
"Our committee will examine the processes involved in deciding whether to remove a child from the family home and consider whether these are consistent across the country.
"Only by doing this can we really be sure that we are making the best decisions for children who may be abused or neglected."
MSPs on the committee will consider if decision-making processes across the country are consistent, as well as whether there are any particular parental risk factors - such as drug or alcohol abuse - that would create a presumption for the child to be taken out of the family home.
They will also investigate if the speed at which such decisions are made is appropriate.
Over the last ten years the number of children in care has risen from under 11,000 to more than 16,000. In 2011 there were 5437 of these looked-after children who remained in the family home.