Children and Teenagers Who Set Fires: The Lens We Use and How We Respond

Delivered by

Joanna Foster


Format options

In Person | Online

Duration options

6 hr (1 day | 12 hr (2 day)


This training can be adapted for parents and carers including foster carers, and further bespoke elements can be added on request.

Content Summary: 

A substantial proportion of deliberately set fires are started by children and young teenagers.  Up to a third of young people in community samples report that they have engaged in firesetting behaviour and this common, costly and often complex problem is cited as causing significant amounts of physical, financial and emotional damage globally each year.

This one-day course explores what is understood about child-set fires and how the latest research can influence frontline practice in addressing firesetting behaviour.  Particular attention is given to the lens through which we approach firesetting behaviour and the importance of language; the motives for child-set fires, and “what works” in addressing child-set fires, including learning from adult firesetting research.

By using case studies and practical exercises throughout, delegates will develop their knowledge and skills in this area whilst also learning new creative techniques and approaches that can be applied across direct work with children and teenagers.  In so doing, those attending can increase their understanding and confidence in this often misunderstood and much-feared behaviour.



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Training delivered by

Joanna Foster

After graduating from the University of Oxford, Joanna gained over sixteen years’ experience of working in the public, charitable and voluntary sectors, including ten years managing the London Fire Brigade’s firesetting intervention scheme for children and teenagers. As manager, Joanna worked with hundreds of London’s most at-risk children and families, re-shaping the intervention scheme in line with statutory requirements to ensure the highest possible standards for clients and staff. Using her working knowledge and training in children’s safeguarding and wellbeing, Joanna worked closely with the London Child Protection Committee to introduce juvenile firesetting behaviour into the London Child Protection Procedures for the first time.

Joanna delivers training, consultancy and supervision services to front-line organisations. She continues to work directly with children and teenagers who set fires, including accepting referrals from public sector bodies. Joanna’s professional clients include practitioners from the NHS, CAMHS, HMPPS, YOT, forensic psychology, fire services, police, education, social care, academia, arts therapies, secure units, mental health services and charities. She has also trained practitioners overseas and developed and delivered workshops and webinars tailored specifically to parents and carers. Although specialising in juvenile firesetting, Joanna’s work and studies enable her to deliver training that covers the spectrum of children, families and practitioners needs. As a result, Joanna has spoken at national and international conferences in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, New Zealand and the US on the subjects of juvenile firesetting and children’s safeguarding.

Joanna has a Post Graduate Certificate (PGC) in Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health, and a Master’s in Applied Criminology, Penology and Management at the University of Cambridge. Achieving distinction status and receiving four awards from the University of Cambridge for her studies, her thesis explored the identification of risk and need when addressing child firesetting. Joanna’s first book ‘Children and Teenagers Who Set Fires: Why they do it and how to help’ was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2019. In 2021 she was awarded ‘Training Provider of the Year’ by the Fire and Excellence Emergency Awards, receiving several nominations for the title.