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Children and Family Services Capital Area Head Start
Who We Are
We provide a comprehensive child development program designed to give children a head start in life, so they can succeed at home, school and in the community.
Capital Area Head Start gives children a head start in life, empowers parents and strengthens families. CAHS began providing Head Start services to children and families in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry Counties in 1988, when Keystone Children & Family Services received a grant for the program. In 2001, we added Early Head Start services to serve pregnant women and children from birth to three.
Head Start is a comprehensive, federally-funded child development program and serves over 900 families in the tri-county area. Children may enter the Head Start program up to two years before entering public school. Through our Early Head Start program, we provide services for children ages birth to three and women who are pregnant.
We provide Head Start services based on three program models:
- Part-day school year
- Pre-K Counts
- Home-based programs
In our part-day school year program, children attend school for three and a half hours, four days a week. In Pre-K Counts, children attend classes for five hours, five days a week during the school year. For children and families in our home-based programs, home visitors visit families for one and a half hours three times per month. This model includes a part-day classroom experience each week. Early Head Start families receive weekly visits and two family days each month.
Children in all programs receive comprehensive services, including educational, medical, dental, nutritional and family social services. For specific age qualifications for each of our programs, please contact our main office at 717-541-1795.
In keeping with Keystone Children & Family Services' tradition of involving parents in services provided for their children, CAHS emphasizes parent involvement and participation in all areas of their child's development. The Head Start Policy Council, a group of parents of children enrolled in Head Start services, is one of the principal governing bodies for CAHS.
Developing Early Writing Skills
Last year, Capital Area Head Start teachers attended a “Draw a Story” training. The results have been astounding! Children have shown growth both in the detail of their drawings and their ability to recall and retell stories. These skills transfer and support early reading and writing—and it’s fun! “Draw a Story” teaches children that print holds meaning, stories and speech can be written down, and writing can be read over and over. Children develop an understanding of how books and stories work. This process also supports children’s ability to develop knowledge of directionality and spaces between words, as well as how to use their own experiences for writing. “Draw a Story” provokes children’s interest and encourages them to ask questions about others’ stories, and it allows children to experiment with letter shapes.
Promoting Children's Social-Emotional Success
Capital Area Head Start has kicked off a program-wide approach to supporting children’s social and emotional competence, based on the Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) pyramid model and positive behavior interventions and supports. We have started the year by introducing all parents to the Positive Guidance policies through the Behavior Partnership Agreement, which discusses how staff and parents will work together to support the development of social skills.
At our annual preservice training event, staff were introduced to several strategies for program-wide implementation. One of the strategies is the Solution Board, which children and teachers can use to decide on possible solutions and try one out when problems arise in the classroom. Home Visitors made portable Solution Boards to use on Home Visits with families.
Another strategy is the Friendship Kit, which includes a stuffed animal, blank greeting cards, tissues, stickers, and a stress ball. The Friendship Kit promotes empathy and is to be used when a child sees another child who is sad or upset. The children are encouraged to offer something from the kit to their friend, thus promoting a caring community of learners.
We purchased several books identified in the CSEFEL Book Nook for each classroom, and we provided activity ideas that support social-emotional learning and development. Staff also had the opportunity to see several examples of Calm Down Areas that can easily be replicated in the classroom. The Calm Down Area is a place where children can go to be alone, and it includes safe, stress-reducing toys for children to use to support self-regulation.
Lastly, each classroom received the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. This awesome book discusses the importance of kindness and how to demonstrate it to others.
Staff were challenged to discuss ways to implement this philosophy with children, parents, and co-workers. We’re proud of the efforts staff are making to implement these positive strategies and look forward to hearing stories about their successes along the way.