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Writing Samples

Dishman recalls, “He was scared because I wasn’t going to be sympathetic; kids get that at home. Parents say, what you did was bad—don’t do it again, and kiss him goodnight. I take a different approach:  If you play with fire—you get burned.”


Dishman chats with Jared, making mental notes about his family life. Jared remembers him saying, “You seem like a good kid; I’m really disappointed in you.” But Chief Dishman is just getting started....


Fire Gives Kids Power

Lieutenant Randy Fischesser, Coordinator of Juvenile Firesetter Programs for Reading Fire Department, confesses it’s difficult to know the real number of kids that play with fire, but it would be staggering; most incidents are never discovered or go unreported. The United States Fire Administration estimates that among the 50,000 or so reported arson (intentionally set) fires each year, 55% are started by children. Child-set fires annually result in approximately $200 million in property damage, 1800 injuries, and 300 deaths of which about 255 are children— usually the firesetters. They look for privacy: vacant buildings, the basement, but usually the bedroom, including the closet and even under the bed.


When a child is referred to the fire department for education, it’s usually not the first time they’ve set a fire. Dishman says parents are often astonished to learn their child has been setting fires in the home. “On average, a child will set 7–10 fires before an injury occurs.  Then he gets scared and doesn’t want to mess with it anymore. If he continues, it becomes a different animal.”...

                          PPA Bronze Award


Excerpt from “Playing with Fire”


Amber stepped out of the shower and hesitated for a moment—something didn’t smell right. She hurried to check on the kids and found 10-year old Jared and 6-year old sister Carissa sitting at the living room coffee table.


Amber was stunned by what she saw on the table: a candle lighter Jared had retrieved from the fireplace mantle, a glass of water, and a melted crayon, marker, and eraser. The evidence exposed the crime: Jared had been experimenting with fire, lighting household items and extinguishing them in water.


Amber exploded. “You could have burned your sister, or you! You could have burned me—I was in the shower!” Distressed and shocked, she couldn’t stop yelling.


Amber and husband David deliberated over an effective punishment. “We wanted something that would stay with him,” says Amber. They lectured and grounded. And then they sent Jared to talk with a Fire Chief. 


A Punishment to Fit the Crime

At Campbell County’s Cold Spring Fire Station, Jared and his father enter a small white room with tiny windows. Assistant Chief Ray Dishman motions for them to sit, positioning himself close to Jared. “Sit up, young man. This isn’t your home.”

Excerpt from “Sugar and Spice—and NOT so Nice”, an interview with Rosalind Wiseman, author of  Queen Bees & Wannabes


[If your child is the victim of bullying], when should you involve the school?

Kids are likely being cyberbullied by kids they go to school with. The baseline is that the school has to strive for a safe environment where kids can learn.


Cyberbullying gets intense fast, like direct threats. You go to the school and tell what is happening that you don’t like and exactly what you need. You’re working with the school.


Some people say, if it didn’t happen in school, it isn’t the school’s responsibility.

That attitude endangers the lives of their kids. You can wait until someone sets fire to the school, brings a gun to school, or kills herself. It’s that serious. Or you can be proactive about it and realize that this is an excellent opportunity to show how parents and school administrators can work together, that the adults are united in helping them.


What is the responsibility of young people who witness bullying?

I try to transform bystanders into people who bear witness and say, we’re not going to stand by silently, and we’re not going to become perpetrators. We’re not going to use our cell phones to film the girl-fight. We’re not going to stand sentry at a door while a group of friends beats up a girl....


Cloth Diapers: The Next Generation


No pins. Yeah, you heard right. And no rubber pants either—and that’s just two of many new innovations. “Generations of parents have been cloth diapering their babies, and with today’s options, it’s even easier,” says Renee Stiefel of Toasty Baby cloth-diapering service. Visit to learn how cloth diapers benefit the environment, your baby’s health, and your pocketbook.


Pins can be replaced with plastic Snappi fasteners, and many styles fasten with snaps or Velcro. Cloth diapers have been redesigned, contoured to fit your baby, with elastic at leg openings and (in some types) a waterproof outer layer. For a cloth-diaper primer, visit, where you’ll also find out how to wash them and which soaps and balms are incompatible.


Remember those rubber pants, which required you to take off the child’s shoes and pants to remove them? Gone. New covers come in a variety of materials and go on and fasten like a disposable. And get this: flushable, biodegradable liners, which go into the toilet with the solid waste so less ends up in the diaper’s fabric—and the washer. “Most people don’t realize that, even with disposables, you are supposed to put the baby’s poop into the toilet,” says Mike Stiefel of Toasty Baby. “Landfills are not meant to handle human waste.”


Here’s what moms like: You can get organic as well as 100% cotton, which is chemical free, absorbent, and breathable. After the initial investment, there is little cost for materials. Even with water, soap, and energy use, laundering diapers saves money. A diaper service (which picks up your dirty diapers and leaves you with clean ones) can be less expensive than washing them yourself, and you can rent them so there’s no initial investment. You can have more than one type and even supplement with environmentally friendly disposables, so that other caregivers don’t object.


And moms report: less diaper rash. Really! I’m not making this up! Plus, studies show that your child will potty train earlier. Now THAT’s an incentive!


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