From Risk to Promise

The Impact of Martial Arts on Foster Kids

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From Risk to Promise

The Impact of Martial Arts on Foster Kids

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In the somber reality of the foster care system, where uncertainty and upheaval are constant unwanted companions, a potent catalyst for a positive transformation lies in wait – martial arts. Amidst the struggles and adversities that define their young lives, martial arts emerges as a profound conduit for empowerment, unearthing hidden reservoirs of strength and resilience.

Far more than a mere form of physical fitness or self-defense, it becomes a sanctuary of hope, a refuge where foster children can unravel their potential, cultivate fortitude, and forge a promising path into the future where perhaps none existed before.

Within the confines of martial arts, children from diverse backgrounds find solace in the rigorous discipline and consistent routines. For those navigating the turbulent waters of foster care, its impact surpasses the physical realm, becoming an emotional stronghold where they can focus on their own journey of strength and self-discovery.

In this exploration, we venture into the extraordinary healing realm of martial arts, and witness the way it bolsters self-confidence, kindles self-esteem, and instills vital life skills, offering participants a lifeline to break free from their tumultuous pasts and embrace boundless possibilities for the future. This journey illuminates how it can empower anyone to defy their circumstances and unleash a tenacity that knows no limits.

The Harrowing Reality

The following statistics have been provided by The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2023), where the KIDS Count Data Center compiles data from the Nation­al Child Abuse and Neglect Data Sys­tem, the fed­er­al Adop­tion and Fos­ter Care Analy­sis and Report­ing Sys­tem, and the Nation­al Youth in Tran­si­tion Data­base as a whole.

  • In 2021, 203,770 chil­dren under 18 entered fos­ter care in the Unit­ed States, a rate of 3 per 1,000.
  • Over a third of fos­ter chil­dren and youth expe­ri­ence more than two place­ments each year, mean­ing their liv­ing arrange­ments change at least three times a year. These moves are dis­rup­tive, stress­ful and often trau­ma­tiz­ing. Sta­ble rela­tion­ships and home envi­ron­ments are crit­i­cal for healthy child and youth development.
    • The trauma that foster children experience exposes them to:
      • Safe­ty and risky behav­iors, such as youth ending up in juve­nile deten­tion facil­i­ties, and teens abus­ing alco­hol or using cig­a­rettes, mar­i­jua­na and oth­er drugs.
      • Deficits in men­tal and phys­i­cal health, such as young adults feel­ing depressed or hope­less, and health con­di­tions (e.g., obe­si­ty, asth­ma and spe­cial health care needs).
      • Aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment and relat­ed issues; for exam­ple, low test scores, increase in school dis­ci­pline, stu­dents miss­ing school, stu­dents not com­plet­ing high school, teens nei­ther work­ing nor in school and much more.
    • More than 19,000 youth left fos­ter care in 2021 with­out reunit­ing with their par­ents or hav­ing anoth­er per­ma­nent fam­i­ly home.
      • The tran­si­tion to adult­hood is a sig­nif­i­cant and chal­leng­ing devel­op­men­tal phase of life for all young peo­ple, but youth aging out of fos­ter care on their own must face this with­out the sup­port of a sta­ble, lov­ing fam­i­ly. Many also lose access to ser­vices and sup­ports offered through the fos­ter care sys­tem. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, these youth and young adults are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence behav­ioral, men­tal and phys­i­cal health issues, hous­ing prob­lems and home­less­ness, employ­ment and aca­d­e­m­ic dif­fi­cul­ties, ear­ly par­ent­hood, incar­cer­a­tion and oth­er poten­tial­ly life­long adver­si­ties.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2021), the largest unmet need of children within the foster care system is mental and behavioral health care.

Children and teens thrive under routines, structure, and reasonable expectations, especially when partnered with a warm and nurturing home environment (AAP, 2021).

While these statistics are disturbing at the very least, they are an oversimplification of the real issue: thousands of children within the foster care system are in dire need of mental, behavioral, and physical health outreach programs, and as a community we must supply what we can to fill that gap.

Providing Hope

We already know that martial arts is a comprehensive journey of personal growth – leading to mental, emotional, and physical strength building across the board.

Check out our other blogs on how martial arts can enrich your personal journey of growth HERE!

How Can It Benefit Those in the Foster Care System?

Here at Believing Through Achieving, we have a unique learning platform that cuts out the obstacles normally preventing people from learning martial arts.

We have found that consistency, transportation, and coordination of schedules can often be a challenge within foster homes, and with our program, learning martial arts at home online is an easy solution.

The training platform acts as an online dojo. This dojo is a refuge where simple, consistent positive behavior is recognized and rewarded. The dojo model, through mentoring and peer-to-peer recognition, fosters discipline and respect.

So, What About Self-Confidence?

The erratic nature of their living situations, the pain of severed connections, and the awareness of their transient circumstances often produces low self-esteem in foster care children. Martial arts training through skill development inherently nurtures a higher self-worth. This high level of confidence translates into a willingness to learn new things, unlocking a myriad of prospects for growth and advancement.

Martial arts stands as a solid testament to the human spirit’s indomitable resilience. The impact on these young people extends far beyond the realm of physical fitness, reaching deep into the emotional core, instilling values, and nurturing a sense of belonging and perhaps most importantly, hope.

The journey of a foster child is one of profound challenges and victories, with happy moments and far too many not so happy. Martial arts imparts not only the art of self-defense but the art of survival, offering a shield against the storms of life and a beacon of hope in the face of uncertainty. By embarking on their journey to self-empowerment, these children can chart a course towards success within the world.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Mental and Behavioral Health Needs of Children in Foster Care. Retrieved from,others%20and%20their%20property%2C%20etc.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2023).  Child Welfare and Foster Care Statistics. Retrieved from:

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