Putting out the fire: An intervention program for juvenile firesetters

Jennifer L. Bergeron (2003)

The consequences of juvenile firesetting are devastating and often deadly. Juvenile firesetters represent a heterogeneous group covering a range of ages and exhibiting a range of emotional, behavioral, and psychological issues. The current literature describes risk factors, conceptualizations, and possible motivations associated with firesetting behavior. There is no single approach to treatment that is effective for all juvenile firesetters. Currently, juvenile firesetter intervention programs involve a combination of fire safety education and appropriate referrals for mental health treatment and community services. Collaboration between mental health agencies, police, and fire personnel is necessary to best serve firesetters and their families. This project involved the development of a juvenile firesetter intervention program, drawing from existing intervention programs and fire safety curriculums, to address the needs of firesetting youth in a rural county. Given the limited resources of County X, the proposed juvenile firesetter intervention program (JFIP) is organized within the county's juvenile justice diversion program. At intake, the program conducts an in-depth assessment of each firesetter. The Firesetting Risk Interview and the Children's Firesetting Interview provide a structure for obtaining necessary information from the child and family to develop a thorough understanding of the firesetting behavior. With the assessment complete, the program team develops an individualized intervention plan for each child and recommendations are outlined. The intervention component of the program is comprised of fire safety education, community service projects, and referrals to mental health professionals and other community resources. In addition, the JFIP will provide case management services to the children and their families, maintaining connections with clinicians and other treatment providers to monitor the child's progress in treatment and provide a source of support for families. The effectiveness of the program will be evaluated by measuring recidivism. Information on repeat offenses is gathered from local authorities and through the use of follow-up visits, surveys, and phone calls with families who have completed the program.