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 1,100 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 1,100. Throughout the more than 30-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 does CAHS curriculum consist of?

  • Planning around individual 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
  • Extensive support from multiple community partners
  • Active participation in federal, state, and local boards and committees

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 in Pennsylvania. 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.

What are some of the criteria 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.

Residency. Certain residency requirements may apply to certain sites.

Interest. CAHS is looking for children and families who are interested in participating in the program by ensuring their children get to school every day and/or participating in home visits.

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. Learn more about enrollment and eligibility.

How do parents benefit from CAHS?

  • CAHS promotes positive parent self-esteem and develops leadership skills.
  • CAHS facilitates parent literacy, employment, and self-sufficiency.
  • Many parents develop personal goals while their child is enrolled in Head Start and receive support to reach those goals.
  • Head Start parents volunteer in the program in some way which translates into valuable job training experience.
  • CAHS connects parents with community resources to support them in times of crisis
  • Parents have the opportunity to participate in Hands On Training (HOT) if they have an interest in a career in early childhood education.
  • 35% 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.”

“Capital Area Head Start helped our family focus on positive behaviors and the behavioral process.”

How does the community benefit from CAHS?

  • Employs approximately 260 staff
  • Spends over $14,000,000 annually through employment, leasing of space, and purchase of goods and services
  • Brings needed federal funds into the area
  • Is governed by a local Board of Directors and by a parent Policy Council, so decisions about spending, staffing, and program administration are made locally
  • Is a comprehensive, family-focused agency working to impact parents’ and children’s health, education, and development. CAHS connects families to services that empower them and provide them with opportunity
  • Builds strong families, which builds strong communities
  • Advocates for children and families
  • Demonstrates significant educational outcomes for children in literacy, cognitive development, and social-emotional development
  • Maintains 100% enrollment
  • Demonstrates significant health outcomes for children. Please view our Annual Accomplishments for more information.

Are there employment opportunities?

  • Employment opportunities with Capital Area Head Start are available through Keystone Human Services.
  • Both entry level positions and professional positions are available.
  • We offer competitive salaries and benefits.
  • We also offer on the job training and educational assistance.

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. Call 717-541-1795 for more information.