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Young people and caregivers’ perceptions of an intervention program for children who deliberately light fires

Ian Lambie, Fred Seymour, Tanya Popaduk


A significant number of children and adolescents engage in deliberate fire setting, beyond the scope of curiosity and experimentation. Interventions developed to respond to the needs of such fire setters generally involve educational and/or psychosocial approaches. Research evaluating the effectiveness of these interventions is dominated by outcome studies which rely on recidivism rates determined by either official records or parent reports. There has however, been no process evaluation studies published. This study presents a process analysis which aimed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a Fire Awareness and Intervention Program in New Zealand, from the perspectives of program consumers. Qualitative research methods were employed, with data being derived from in-depth interviews with young people and their parents/caregivers. The analysis indicated that (a) the FAIP was generally regarded as a positive experience, (b) practitioners’ qualities of empathy and understanding are important for developing rapport with the young people and their parents, (c) education-based intervention tailored to the young person's age and developmental level is important, (d) educational resources need to be updated and used flexibly to respond appropriately to the age and developmental level of the young person, and (e) inter-agency and intra-agency relationships need to be developed and maintained, with formal arrangements for reciprocal referral systems developed in order to respond to the needs of the clients. The resulting implications for service providers, along with future research are discussed.
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