Methods: The methodology we used for this scoping review was based on the PRISMA-ScR extension for scoping reviews framework (Tricco et al., 2018). Documents from both research and white/grey literature were eligible for inclusion if they contained one or more of the following elements of information on expectant or parenting fathers in foster care: (1) research findings, (2) legal guidance, (3) policy guidance, or (4) practice guidance. We included documents if they were published between 1989–2021, written in English, based in the United States.
Results: We identified 94 sources of evidence: 64 empirical studies (39 mothers only), 21 legal papers (7 mothers only), 8 white papers/grey literature, and 1 dissertation. Articles highlighted six areas of interest regarding expectant and parenting male youth in foster care: (1) incidents of impregnation by males in foster care; (2) predictors and characteristics associated with fathering while in foster care; (3) risk factors of early fatherhood in care; (4) elements of fathering roles while in foster care; (5) legal rights of fathers in foster care; and (6) practice with fathers in care. Across all reviewed literature, mothers in foster care were consistently the focus of the literature. If fathers in foster care were included in the literature, findings or guidance were often provided in the aggregate (e.g., parents in care). When aggregated, literature still focused on mothers in care or female pronouns were used to describe the larger parenting population. In terms of information on fathers in foster care by the source of evidence, research papers provided quantitative descriptions of fathers, practice papers focused on rights of fathers, legal papers centered on paternity establishment or paternal rights, and policy papers discussed the need for improved data tracking and interventions for fathers.
Conclusion and Implications: Overall, more research is needed to understand the outcomes, experiences, and needs of young fathers in foster care, as well as to support them as they transition out of care into early adulthood and young fatherhood. Policymakers and practitioners should explore how existing fatherhood policies and interventions may be leveraged in foster care to improve the child and family outcomes of fathers in foster care. Such efforts may be effective in interrupting the cycle of intergenerational cycle of trauma and foster care involvement for children born to fathers in foster care.