Q.
Why do kids light fires?
A.
Children misuse fire for many different reasons, the most common reason is curiosity. Often adults do not address this behavior believing the child is just “playing” with fire. Children also use fire as a “cry for help” or with intent to destroy property or harm someone. Children are often fascinated with fire and feel they can control fire without knowing the consequences of misusing fire. It is very important children are taught about fire safety and the consequences of the misuse of fire.
Q.
What do I do if I know a child has started a fire?
A.
Every event where fire is misused should be taken seriously and the behavior should be addressed. Basic education about safety is always available through the local fire department. If a child has misused fire repeatedly or the fire behavior is used for purposes to harm someone or something or to destroy property professional help should be sought immediately.
Q.
Who is considered a fire started?
A.
Fire is a tool and not a toy and anyone starting a fire without the proper education on how to handle fire could start a fire with devastating effects. Youth Set Fire Prevention and Intervention programs address firesetting behaviors on every level. The intervention depends on the intent and motivation of why the fire was set and is tailored to the needs of the child, the family and the environment in which that child lives.
Q.
As a family member/caretaker how can I get help for my child?  What is my responsibility?
A.
Families should seek out their local Fire Departments to ask for assistance. They can provide fire and life safety education for children in the school systems and can provide basic information about fire safety. If a child is using fire repeatedly or with the intent to destroy property, hurt others or recently displays is struggling with other high risk behaviors then advice should be sought any of the following professionals:
  • Family pediatrician
  • Local therapists
  • Programs offering youth set fire interventions
  • School counselors
  • Youth Set Fire Programs (see contact information under resources)
Q.
 Who can be charged with Arson or related fire setting charges?
A.
The juvenile court has jurisdiction over persons who commit criminal acts prior to their 18th birthday. Whether a charge is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor doesn’t have the same significance in juvenile court as it does in the adult court. The more significant difference is whether the charge is classified as a Serious Juvenile Offense (SJO) or not.  The maximum commitment for a conviction for an SJO is four years. For all other charges, it is 18 months. Either commitment may be extended for another 18 months. All delinquency commitments end on the person’s 20th birthday, regardless of how much time is left on the commitment
Q.
If I tell someone about my child's fire setting, can my child get in trouble?
A.
If a child commits a crime there is a possibility of being charged for that crime. This behavior, like many high risk behaviors should be taken seriously. By reporting the behavior you and your child have the opportunity to get the help you need from a qualified professional. 
Q.
What happens when a child is referred to a program?
A.
You will meet with someone from the program to provide intake information, then the youth and family will go through a screening process which will be a collection background information on both youth and family. Once complete, someone from the program will meet with you to discuss the information collected and provide a plan to best handle your specific needs.
Q.
Is there a fee for the program?
A.
Each program has its own policies regarding fees. Programs listed above do not charge a fee.
Q.
How can we learn more about the issue of Youth Set Fires?
A.
Training is available for community based programs including treatment providers, schools, physicians or family organizations. If you are interested in learning more about why children misuse fire and what can be done please contact Ann Adams at Ann.Adams@ct.gov or at 860-550-6398.