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Newton (New Hampshire) Juvenile Fire Intervention Program

It is the mission of the Newton Juvenile Fire Intervention Program to reduce the incidence of fire and related casualties within the community by establishing a continuum of care in Rockingham County for youth who misuse fire and their families.

This community-based program focuses on developing a standardized approach for early identification of youth who misuse fire, as well as building a resource network for intervention and treatment of youth with fire-misuse behavior.

Coalition partners include fire service, law enforcement, criminal justice, schools, and social service agencies in servicing the needs of youth in their communities. Parents, judges, guidance counselors, police officers, and youth workers rely on the program to strengthen and improve families' ability to make healthy and safe decisions and reduce involvement with the juvenile justice system.

The Newton program asks its citizens, "If your child or a young person you know has set a fire, you must get help immediately to keep your family or neighborhood safe from fire!" The site states that research shows that: 1) Children are curious about fire; even toddlers can start a fire with a match or lighter; 2) each year, children are seriously burned or die from playing with matches or lighters; 3) parents need to take their child's curiosity about fire seriously; and 4) children who are curious about fire can be helped with fire education.

The Newton Fire Intervention Program serves youth ages 3 to 16. Through a screening, educational component, and fire intervention needs assessment, area children and teens are held accountable for fire-misuse behavior while linking youth and families with appropriate community resources to reduce the likelihood of a repeat incident. When concerns arise about fire misuse or firesetting behavior, the Newton Fire Department is the regional contact and will screen the youth to determine the best level of services for the youth and family.

Once the screening is completed, the fire department office will determine the next steps for the youth, which may include participation in an educational program and/or a needs assessment.

Two education programs are offered based on the age of the child. Young children (ages 3 to 6) generally attend a three-session program, while older youth (ages 6 to 16) attend a total of eight sessions.

The fire department may choose to refer the youth for a fire intervention needs assessment. The initial appointment will be 60–90 minutes for the parent or guardian only; the juvenile should not accompany the parent or guardian to this appointment.

Three additional sessions will take place with the juvenile (and the parent or guardian, when appropriate). These additional sessions will be up to 50 minutes in length and the parent or guardian must accompany juveniles to these additional appointments.

As part of the needs assessment, the child's teacher and/or guidance counselor will be contacted. Once the assessment is completed, written recommendations will be discussed with the parents and the youth, as appropriate, and will also be submitted to the fire department.

The problem of juvenile firesetting is gaining increasing attention. Children account for a startling number of fires in the Newton area and, all too often, are the victims of the fires they set. Firesetting behavior is progressive and, if left untreated, has an 81-percent probability of being repeated. The Newton Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program is an interagency effort designed to identify, assess, and intervene with children who start, play with, or witness firesetting at the earliest stages. Firesetting is a complex series of different behaviors and the Newton program links the resources of many local agencies to identify, refer, assess, and provide appropriate treatment to children who set fires.