"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
A small group of caring, committed people saw a need and responded with compassion, education and support to the children who set fires and their families.
In the mid 1990s a group of fire district public education officers met to find a way to make the dream of a statewide information system, to gather critical information about juvenile firesetting, a reality. The statewide information system would gather data to help them understand and find solutions to the growing problem of children who set fires, known as juvenile firesetting. Sherry Davich, of the Florida State Fire Marshal's Office hosted the event. Among those attending were Beth Hardee of the State Fire College, Victoria Yeakley from Hillsborough County, Dr. Gerri Penney from Palm Beach County and Puddin Race from St. Lucie County. Over time they all met with experts from Juvenile Justice, State Attorney, Fire Marshal's and many more.
In 2004 a group of dedicated fire service people formed the First Coalition Building Workshop to set up the Juvenile Firesetter Intervention program.
That team included:
Randall Napoli, Director Division of State Fire Marshal
Harriett Abrams, Assistant Director, Division of State Fire Marshal
Jennifer Langston, Project Coordinator, Division of State Fire Marshal
Joseph Schwartz, Lt. Division of State Fire Marshal, Plantation, Broward JFIP Network
Beth Hardee, Captain Alachua County Fire Rescue
Deborah Young, Assistant State Attorney, Broward Judicial Circuit, Broward JFIP Network
Charlie Raiken, Fire Marshal, Broward County Fire Rescue, Broward JFIP Network
Dr. Donna Faranda, Licensed Psychologist, Family Central, Broward JFIP Network
These pioneers of the juvenile firesetter's intervention program met to share their vision, ideas, materials and their experience. They developed the curriculum and certification for the Juvenile Firesetter's Intervention Program. Their vision also included a Juvenile Firesetter's database but that was going to take more time, energy and funding.
Their efforts proved to be successful beyond expectation. When children who set fires are assigned to a Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program, they are 85% less likely to set another fire.
Their compassion and vision is extended to the children who need additional mental health care. Where resources are available, community fire districts provide mental health counseling to children who need more than the Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program. In areas where resources are not available for a mental health aspect to the program, many fire districts are working tirelessly to find sources of funding for children who need counseling.
Palm Beach County, under the guidance of Dr. Gerri Penney applied for and was awarded grant funding to develop the first web based juvenile firesetter data gathering tool in the state of Florida for Palm Beach County.
The Florida statewide Juvenile Firesetter's database was still a dream.
It took another dedicated group of people to make the statewide Juvenile Firesetter's database a reality.
The members of this group include:
Puddin Race, Ret. St Lucie County Fire District Public Education Officer, who kept the dream alive.
Puddin contacted Brian Haas, CEO of Vistalogix Corporation about developing the database and put a series of events in motion that would bring the dream to life. Puddin contacted FFMIA and Chuck Akers about finding the funding to create the Juvenile Firesetters Database. Puddin continues her dedicated effort to train and certify Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Specialists for the state of Florida. She is also training the fire districts in how to use the database.
FFMIA and Executive Director Chuck Akers applied for the needed funding.
Charles Raiken and Broward Sheriff's Office managed the project and provided a great deal of design input.
Dr. Gerri Penney provided guidance on web based functionality.
Dr. Donna Faranda provided guidance on the psychological assessments.
In 2009 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided the necessary funding through their grant program to design and develop the Juvenile Firesetter's Database. Brian Haas, CEO of Vistalogix Corporation, hired and managed the talent to build the www.stopfiresetting.com and JFS Database. Vistalogix continues to support, enhance and work with other states to make these tools available where needed.
Compassion and caring is the standard for community fire districts. The Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program and JFS Database is making a huge difference in the lives of the children who set fires and their families. It was conceived from an unmet need, fostered under watchful eyes and brought to reality to help the children.
No one stands so straight as when he stoops to help a child.
Knights of Pythagoras