Fire risk behaviours - advice

This advice provides additional information regarding children who engage in fire risk behaviours.

Introduction

See procedure Fire risk behaviours for tasks that must be undertaken.

Children with fire lighting behaviours pose a risk to themselves, and others. The possibility of serious consequences increases the need for active intervention and is relevant to the exercise of duty of care by the child's care team.

Assessment and support

Each year the Melbourne Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) responds to a number of fires caused by children and interfaces with a significant number who engage in serious fire lighting. The aim is to reduce the harm associated with fire lighting. The Juvenile Fire Awareness and Intervention Program (JFAIP) has identified the following trends as to why children light fires:

Reasons

Approximate age

Association

Curiosity/fascination

3 - 16 years

Attraction to the colour, light and energy release by flames

Attention seeking

6 - 12 years

A change in the family situation, for example, parental separation, new baby, learning or social difficulties

Peer Pressure

10 - 14 years

Learning difficulties or has low self-esteem

Anger/revenge

8 - 14 years

Difficulty relating to peers or experiencing family problems

Malicious mischief

13 - 16 years

Family and social difficulties

It is important to note that fire lighting is commonly linked with trauma associated with sexual abuse, especially with boys, and neglect can also be an underlying issue.

Fire lighting tendencies and out-of-home care placements

Where a child going into out-of-home care has known or suspected tendencies to fire lighting, the care team should, as part of the case plan and actions table, develop an active fire safety strategy including:

  • an assessment of the child to determine the severity of the behaviour and the likely risks (for example, assessment by JFAIP)
  • the use of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) Youth Firesetting Support Guide – a resource for caregivers and practitioners concerned about fire risk behaviours in a child or young person
  • identified strategies for managing or modifying the behaviour and addressing related causal issues, as determined and documented in the case plan and the looking after children (LAC) placement referral record and essential information record (EIR) and care and placement plan
  • active implementation of these strategies as part of LAC and in conjunction with the care team
  • referral to an appropriate service for education and support to address the fire lighting behaviour.

Where a child going into out-of-home care has known or suspected tendencies to fire lighting this information must be shared with the carers. Child protection practitioners should discuss this with kinship carers and community service organisation (CSO) staff must discuss with foster carers or residential carers. See our approach information sharing in OOHC.

Although all residential and foster care placements must meet required fire safety standards and are monitored on these standards, additional support and equipment may be required when placing a child with known or suspected fire lighting tendencies. For kinship care placements these issues will form part of the assessment of the placement for a child with fire lighting tendencies.

Home-based carers need to be fully supported if they are to care for a child with fire lighting tendencies. They must be provided with all the facts and likely scenarios that may eventuate in undertaking such a placement. The Department of Health and Human Services will pay for approved equipment to be supplied and installed in the carer's house as outlined in the active fire safety strategy. Any equipment purchases, installation or modification of a carer's home should be discussed with the team manager and the appropriate divisional placement manager.

High-risk youth

A young person with fire lighting tendencies may present complex supervision and case management challenges. Young people with serious fire lighting risks should be managed as high risk youth according to divisional processes and systems for the identification, monitoring and review of high risk clients. See procedure High-risk youth for tasks that must be undertaken.

Youth Firesetting Support Guide (CFA)

The Youth Firesetting Support Guide (the guide) is a resource developed by the CFA for caregivers and practitioners concerned about a child or young person’s fire risk behaviour. The guide provides information about fire risk behaviour and a range of support services that may be able to assist within the community.

Juvenile fire awareness intervention program (JFAIP)

JFAIP works with children in their home environment to address their fire lighting behaviour. This state-wide service employs specialist professionals trained to work with people with fire lighting tendencies. The program is supported by psychiatrists and psychologists from the Royal Children's Hospital and private practice.

If required, arrangements can be made for more intensive assessment to be made by the Royal Children's Hospital.

JFAIP 1300 309 988 (State Coordinator)

Melbourne Fire and Emergency Services Board
PO Box 151 East Melbourne, Victoria 3002
Telephone: (03) 9662 2311, Facsimile: (03) 9665 4244.

Additional information

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