It may have come as a surprise to our readers that the Washington School District has identified 26 homeless students. That number is expected to climb as the school year continues.

In past school years, district officials have identified as many as 73 homeless students. Franklin County law enforcement officers wouldn’t be among those who are surprised at that number. They deal with domestic problems every day, many involving children. Homeless children will be found in most public school districts in this era of broken families, and other conditions that lead to throwaway children.

The definition of a homeless child by school officials doesn’t mean that these young people are living in the streets. Federal law defines students as homeless if they lack a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” That includes students living in some type of shelter, a motel, a car or with another family. We have heard of a few number of high school students who were living in a car. School officials have taken some of these students into their homes until some type of shelter is provided for them.

Usually, the children come from divorced or separated parents, and from extreme poverty conditions. School teachers have observed children who it is obvious are not getting enough to eat. That’s why some children are fed breakfast and lunch at school, and food is sent home with some of them for weekends. Also, children come to school with inadequate clothing to deal with the season. For instance, children without a coat to wear in the winter.

We have more agencies than ever before that help those in need. Most of these agencies are members of the United Way and benefit from the annual fund drive. We also have county, state and federal agencies that offer assistance.

There are parents who are down on their luck and simply can’t care adequately for their children. But then you have the freeloaders who are failures in about everything they do, are lazy, give up and go on whatever dole they can find. We have parents who were school “dropouts” and lack the skills to find a good job. They are failures in raising a family. Then there are those parents who are law violators, many of them illegal drug users and their children have to be taken from them for their safety. We have many examples of children living with parents who were caught operating meth labs, and the children have to be placed in foster homes.

Many of these throwaway children really don’t have much of a chance, and their futures are anything but bright.

The breakup of family life in America is one of this country’s most serious problems. The children of these delinquent families are the biggest losers. Our society today as far as family life is concerned lacks the discipline and commitment that once was present. A commitment to religion, to God, can be and has been a solution when family life becomes broken. But we don’t have the steady churchgoers we once had. And some churches have lessened the disciplines they once had. They have become “soft” in some of the necessary disciplines. Some people define it as becoming too liberal.

This country has pockets of “softness” in many areas of life today. We don’t characterize it as a lack of “toughness,” but rather a weak structure of discipline.