What is Capital Area Head Start (CAHS) and where did it originate?

Capital Area Head Start is a comprehensive early childcare and education program serving over 1000 children, from birth to school age (five years old), and their families in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties.

Keystone Service Systems, Inc. DBA Capital Area Head Start became the Head Start grantee for Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry Counties in 1988. Since that time, the program has grown from 245 families to over 1000. Throughout the more than 25-year history, the program has held a firm commitment to developing and providing comprehensive services to meet the needs of children and families in the community. These comprehensive services cover health, education and disabilities, mental health, parent involvement and social services. Capital Area Head Start provides home based and center based programs for pregnant women and children ages birth through five. Programs for incarcerated mothers or fathers, families experiencing homelessness and children with disabilities, among others, are available.

What are the services that CAHS provide?

Part Day Preschool Services
Children enrolled in a part day preschool program attend four half-days a week for 3.5 hours each day from September through June. Families receive two to four home visits and two conferences per year. Preschool services provided at some sites operate five 5-hour days a week. Families also receive three home visits and two conferences per year.
Home Based Services
Families with children enrolled in a Head Start Home Based program receive three home visits per month and the parent and child attend weekly socialization days with other families. Preschool home based services operate from September to June. Birth to three or Early Head Start home based services operate year round. These families receive weekly home visits and bi-weekly family (socialization) days.
Early Head Start
The Early Head Start program serves pregnant women and children from birth to age three through a home-based visitation program.

What does CAHS curriculum consist of?

  • Planning around children’s interests, strengths and developmental needs
  • Regular observation and on-going educational assessment
  • Hands-on interactive learning
  • Language and literacy enrichment
  • A variety of materials and equipment
  • Safe, organized, child-friendly environment
  • Individualized programming
  • Sensory exploration
  • Problem solving
  • Adult support
  • Consistent daily routine
  • Responsive, relationship-based caregiving

What makes CAHS successful?

  • Comprehensive services, which include health, nutrition, social, and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services
  • Federal Head Start performance standards that are monitored annually
  • Services that meet the needs of individual children and families as well as the needs of the local communities
  • Staff and parent commitment to the program and their "can do" approach and initiative

Could you provide some statistics to prove Head Start’s success?

The Head Start Impact Study and the Pre-Kindergarten follow-up study provide data supporting the importance of providing services from birth to five.

  • Children and their families who participated in Early Head Start (EHS) and had participated in either Head Start, pre-k or a formal childcare program experienced favorable outcomes
    • Reduced behavior problems
    • Less aggressive behavior
    • Increased reading-related achievement test scores
  • Their parents showed positive parenting behaviors, were supportive of their child’s learning and were less likely to be depressed.
  • The Harrisburg Preschool Program Evaluation found Head Start graduates had higher mean scores in the 5th grade than a control group on all academic and executive function outcomes. (Greenberg & Domitrovich, 2011)
  • Head Start parents invest more time in learning activities with their children, and non-resident fathers spend more days per month with their children. (Gelber & Isen, 2011)

(These statistics come from https://www.nhsa.org/facts-and-impacts (external website).)

How is CAHS funded?

CAHS primarily uses Federal and State dollars to fund operations. View our Annual Accomplishments for more information about our funding.

Where are the other centers in Pennsylvania located?

Head Start programs are available in 65 counties Pennsylvania. CAHS has 22 centers in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry Counties, which include home based and Early Head Start programs. More information is available from the Pennsylvania Head Start Association.

Are there other Head Start facilities located in the country?

There are Head Start facilities in all 50 states in the United States. More information is available from the Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center.

Have there been any new developments since CAHS started and what are they?

  • Expansion of Early Head Start and Head Start through the American Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA) doubled the size of the CAHS Early Head Start program
  • Effective July 1, 2011, Capital Area Head Start acquired state grant from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to operate 23 Pre-K Counts classrooms
  • The Whitaker Center received a "Grow Up Great" grant from PNC to provide a two-year science education program for CAHS teaching staff
  • Project Fresh provided free smoking cessation services to CAHS staff and families living in Cumberland and Perry Counties
  • Ongoing partnerships with the HACC dental clinic, Sadler Clinic and Pinnacle Lead Team provide preventative care services for children
  • CAHS received special funding through the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) to serve more families in Early Head Start.

What are some of the criteria’s for enrollment?

Income guidelines. CAHS follows the poverty guidelines. CAHS does accept over-income families, only when there are no income-eligible families available.

Age. Early Head Start accepts pregnant women and children ages birth to three. Head Start accepts children ages three to five.

Interest. CAHS is looking for children and families who are interested in participating in the program.

Who do we contact for enrollment?

We have enrollment specialists specially prepared to answer all your questions. They can also perform enrollments over the telephone, where you are placed on a waiting list until a suitable space is available for you. You can reach the enrollment specialists at 717-541-1795.

How do parents benefit from CAHS?

  • The CAHS program helps to get parents out of crisis and stabilizes the family.
  • CAHS promotes positive parent self-esteem and develops leadership skills.
  • CAHS facilitates parent literacy, employment, and self-sufficiency.
  • Many parents enroll in High School Equivalency courses and Job Training programs while their children are enrolled in Head Start.
  • 100% of our Head Start parents volunteer in the program which translates into valuable job training experience.
  • 25% of the paid staff at CAHS have been parents in the program.

What do parents say about CAHS?

"The Head Start staff really takes an interest in not only my child but also my family and we really appreciate their concern."

"Good Job!" "Well Done!" "My child is much more confident."

"We are extremely pleased with our child’s progress and the overall professionalism of the staff."

Are there employment opportunities?

  • Please visit our website for employment opportunities.
  • Both entry level positions and professional positions are available.
  • We offer competitive salaries and benefits.
  • We also offer on the job training, including college courses, on site.

How can we help?

  • Schedule a Head Start speaker at your community or church group.
  • Volunteer your time.
  • "Adopt" a Head Start Center.
  • Assist with one of our many initiatives.
  • Work with one of our many parent groups.
  • Make a donation for a special project or a holiday gift for a child.