Juvenile Fire Intervention Program

 
Otsego County
Juvenile Fire Intervention Program
What We Know!
Charred Wreckage

When the project was started we had little idea of what we were getting into.We did know that children started fires here, but we didn't know how large a problem it was, or what we would need to create to deal with the problem. Looking at five different programs that existed, we formulated the concept that we would use in the intervention process. We compared the USFA model, which provides screening values for the children involved and for the parents of these children. We compared the City of Rochester, N. Y. Fire Related Youth (FRY) projects, both of which provided an overall idea of what our project configuration would look like, and what the end goals should realistically be. Rochester also provided a comprehensive format for documentation using the screening of the USFA. We also looked at the Broome County version of child firesetter intervention and the Niagara Falls project as well.

From these five projects we compiled a format for the framework of our program. This was followed by a need for a means to deliver the program to the children involved. As all of the programs studied were based in urban fire stations, and all but one of our fire departments involved are volunteer, an in-house project was going to be impossible to arrange or maintain.

Charred Wreckage

The solutions to the logistics problem came from the Head Start Program. The Head Start Project's origin was a project called Mainstreaming Rural Children (MRC). This project was centered on the concept of a "home visitor" who came into the home with educational projects for a child and information for the parents. MRC also involved the parents in the educational process by allowing them to help with the educational activity. One of the largest drawbacks that was seen with the urban fire intervention program, was that the child was the only one in the family to receive the fire prevention education. By combining the concepts of a home visitor and fire prevention education in the home, it was possible to educate the child and parent in one program. Equally, both the child and the parent are learning the same concepts of fire prevention and are able to interface each other into a realistic plan for fire safety in the home where they learned the lesson.

As fire setting is often a sign of some other problem, either in the home or community, by placing the lessons in the home, any family problem is more visible to the home visitor and can be dealt with as they occur.

By combining all these concepts into the program, we are able to start to understand the nature of the problem. Unfortunately, the project was, in the beginning, administered and run by fire service personnel only. The fire service personnel have one true expertise, they know fire and the tragedy it brings and provide a means to deal with the threat of fire. All of the other types of social problems and legal problems needed to be dealt with by professionals of each of the fields where the problems occurred. The reality that fire service cannot deal with all of the problems leads to the creation and maintenance of a services network which can be referred to with problems as they are suspected. "If your pipe leaks you don't need a librarian, you need a plumber."

Charred Wreckage

Now that we had a project, we needed to go to each to the agencies available throughout the county and incorporate each into the fields that they are trained to deal with. This is not an easy task. Most human service agencies are already overloaded, so what is the solution? The reality is, most of the people who you are dealing with, they are already dealing with. However, through sharing information both agencies are then able to understand the individual and family situation better, and therefore, deal better with the problems.

A nightmare? No; actually, suddenly all of the agencies find the niche that they excel at in the project. If you have legal problems ask the appropriate police agency, if there is a social problem check with Social Services and see what is available to alleviate the problem. Suddenly, all of the agencies develop an understanding of each other, and a good referral network is developed.