Child maltreatment is associated with life-long social, physical, and mental health problems. Intervening early to provide maltreated children with safe, nurturing care can improve outcomes. The need for prompt decisions about permanent placement (i.e., regarding adoption or return home) is internationally recognised. However, a recent Glasgow audit showed that many maltreated children “revolve” between birth families and foster carers. This paper describes the protocol of the first exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mental health intervention aimed at improving placement permanency decisions for maltreated children. This trial compares an infant's mental health intervention with the new enhanced service as usual for maltreated children entering care in Glasgow. As both are new services, the trial is being conducted from a position of equipoise. The outcome assessment covers various fields of a child’s neurodevelopment to identify problems in any ESSENCE domain. The feasibility, reliability, and developmental appropriateness of all outcome measures are examined. Additionally, the potential for linkage with routinely collected data on health and social care and, in the future, education is explored. The results will inform a definitive randomised controlled trial that could potentially lead to long lasting benefits for the Scottish population and which may be applicable to other areas of the world. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NC01485510).