Annual Accomplishments

COVID19 brought many challenges to CAHS, but we were still able to have a successful, if unusual, year. During the two-week stay-at-home order in March, the entire CAHS staff began examining what teaching in this pandemic would look like and how we could continue to serve the community. We not only met our goal of reaching every family and child we support, but we were also able to bridge the technology gap with our families with support from the community and our funders. Every enrolled child and every teacher received a device to support remote learning and working. We equipped all staff with the necessary PPE equipment to remain safe in their work environments. We continued our focus on furthering the education of CAHS staff, and 27 people received a credential, AA, BA, or Masters degree.

This year, 98% of our preschool families have health insurance, 99% have a medical home, 97% of our children are up to date with immunizations, and 98%have a dental home. For Early Head Start, 99% of the children have health insurance, and 100% have a medical home.

Even though it has been a difficult year for our community and families, CAHS has remained a constant source of support. Thank you to everyone that has provided support throughout this year. We value each and every one of you.

Community-Wide Strategic Planning and Needs Assessment (Community Assessment)

We recently researched and compiled the data for our 2020-2025 Community Assessment. The new assessment will be completed for submission with our 2020-2025 Federal Grant Application in April 2020.

View the 2020 Community Needs Assessment

Parent Engagement

We believe that parents are the first and foremost teachers of their children, and we encourage family participation in CAHS activities. We engage parents as partners to help their children progress. All of our centers and home-based locations facilitate parent meetings, including workshops on school readiness, nutrition, transitioning to school, budgeting, parenting, children’s health and development, and other topics requested by parents.

Every enrolled Parent Engagement family has the opportunity to access ReadyRosie, a research-based family engagement and early learning resource that provides a comprehensive family curriculum based on well-established theories and research. Along with research-based workshops for parents, families have access to short, modeled moments videos which demonstrate enjoyable, easy activities families can do in their daily routine to strengthen bonds and build learning and skills to get children ready for school.

PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Our program motto “Take care of yourself. Take care of your friends. Take care of your home and school.” is at the heart of PBIS implementation. Below are some accomplishments to date and the ongoing effects of the PBIS model:

  • All staff received training on trauma-informed care and resiliency.
  • Bucket filling is practiced program-wide with children, families, and staff.
  • Each center completes Take 5 activities, where we ask parents to “take 5” minutes to explore a social-emotional concept in the classroom and has a parent meeting focused on PBIS.
  • We continue to implement an explicit plan to teach the program-wide expectations, with each of the first three weeks of school focusing on a piece of our program motto.
  • We have implemented a staff reinforcement system to recognize staff that are following and promoting our program-wide motto. When a staff member takes care of himself or herself, their friends, or their home and school, they receive a Buck-et. On the back, a statement is written to explain why the staff person is receiving the Buck-et. The Buck-ets can be cashed in for prizes from the PBIS store or a spot at an event, such as Zumba.
  • We continue to bestow the Silver Bucket Award, which is given to staff who best exemplify the PBIS motto. The Silver Bucket Award will be given out again this program year.
  • We rolled out a new model of Tier 3 intensive support entitled Prevent-Teach-Reinforce for Young Children (PTR-YC). This model is specifically for preschool settings for individualized intervention with challenging behavior. It consists of detailed steps for designing and implementing positive interventions. These steps include (1) Team and Goal Setting, (2) Practical Data Collection, (3) Functional Behavioral Assessment, (4) Intervention, and (5) Follow-up and Next Steps.
  • Friendship Groups continue to be rolled out program-wide for further social-emotional support. Each Friendship Group consists of four children who meet for 30 minutes weekly. Consideration for selection is given to:
    Referred children that staff feel have the most needs or would benefit from the group
    Children who have demonstrated a need for more targeted social-emotional teaching through their disruptive and/or aggressive behavior, as seen through behavior reports and positive guidance steps.

Educational Outcomes

Teachers and home visitors use an evidence-based, ongoing, individualized assessment process to ensure that all children progress toward school readiness and their individualized goals. Children’s progress is formally rated three times each year. CAHS uses the Child Observation Record (COR), a research-based assessment aligned with our HighScope curriculum. COR is used in all preschool center and home-based settings and is cross-walked with the Partners for a Healthy Baby curriculum used in Early Head Start. It is designed to assess children ages 0-5 years on a continuum of growth from infancy through preschool.

Educational outcome averages in 2019-2020 for children ages 3-5 show growth of greater than one year in all domains within a nine-month school year period.  Among the highest-scoring indicators for 3-and 4-year olds were Fine and Gross motor skills; Building relationships with other children; Personal care and healthy behavior; Book enjoyment and knowledge; Problem-solving with materials, and Community.   These high scoring areas are consistent with the previous year’s outcomes.

2018-2019 educational outcomes suggested that increased attention was needed to support children’s early literacy skills development. As a result, all preschool teaching staff received 4-6 hours of additional training in foundational literacy skills and ways to incorporate these kinds of experiences more intentionally into their teaching. Phonological awareness and Alphabetic knowledge indicators showed higher scores and greater gains in 2019-2020 compared to the prior year.

Early Head Start children showed the most progress in the Creative Arts domains, which include Music, Art, Pretend Play, and Movement. This may reflect the increased role of parents in their children’s learning in 2019-2020 due to visits being conducted virtually for the latter part of the year. Many materials promoting these and other domains were provided to families once this transition took place.

The COR Assessment is based on 34 indicators across eight developmental domains: Approaches to Learning, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development and Health, Language, Literacy and Communication, Mathematics, Creative Arts, Science and Technology, and Social Studies. Based on extensive and ongoing anecdotal observations, teachers and home visitors assign a rating to each child’s progress in all indicators three times a year in October, February, and May. COR also allows for meaningful parent input, as parents share observations of children’s progress at home with the teaching staff. These observations are incorporated into the assessment to help provide a more complete picture of each child’s growth and development. In the spring of 2020, with fewer face-to-face opportunities to observe children, teachers provided learning resources and information to parents to encourage confidence in sharing their own observations and input, which is critical to accurately assessing children’s progress.

View the Head Start 2018-2019 Educational Outcomes Summary and Recommendations

School Readiness Goals

CAHS has program goals for school readiness, which include goals for children ages 0-5 and goals for parents and families in all areas of development. Our school readiness goals align with PA Early Learning Standards and the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework. They promote skills to prepare children for success in school and in life and were developed with input from parents and school districts. Our school readiness goals have been revised to reflect our new assessment, the HighScope Child Observation Record.

In August 2018, parents began receiving support in fostering school readiness skills at home through ReadyRosie, a research-based parenting curriculum.

Kindergarten Preparation

An integral part of our school readiness goals is preparing children for kindergarten. This preparation begins long before the final year before kindergarten, as even infants and toddlers are supported in their learning to acquire the skills they need to grow and develop. As noted earlier, CAHS provides comprehensive services and activities to support children to grow educationally, emotionally, socially, and physically. Our classrooms use the HighScope curriculum, which is based on key developmental indicators that align with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards, to ensure a quality learning experience. These developmental indicators focus on:

  • Approaches to learning
  • Language, literacy and communication
  • Social and emotional development
  • Mathematics
  • Creative arts
  • Science and technology
  • Social studies
  • Physical development and health

Outcomes are collected in all these areas. The HighScope curriculum also includes indicators for English language learners as they begin to acquire English. CAHS uses the PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) curriculum to assist children to learn important social and emotional skills for success in school and life. Children learn feelings identification, empathy, cooperative play, fair play skills, and problem solving.

To support and assist children and families to successfully transition to kindergarten, teachers carefully plan activities to introduce the school experience, including:

  • Visiting kindergarten classrooms
  • Meeting kindergarten staff
  • Transitions: From the Children’s Perspective (video) (available online(external website))
  • Sharing photos and/or pen pal letters with kindergarten classrooms
  • Reading books about going to kindergarten
  • Creating “school” dramatic play opportunities

In addition to prepare parents for their children going to kindergarten, we provide them with information about the transition process. We hold parent meeting discussions and provide parents with informational flyers on kindergarten registration and orientation, and remind parents of this information through handouts and newsletters. CAHS staff also attend community group meetings and training that address communication, collaboration, and supporting families through the transition process. Staff work regularly to build and maintain relationships with the school staff in the districts where our children and families live.

Grants and Partnerships

We received several grants and formed new partnerships to benefit children and families.

  • Capital Area Head Start has over 40 Community Partnership Agreements.
  • Capital Area Head Start continues to focus on the health and wellness of children, families, and staff. We have started new partnerships with the Pennsylvania Department of Health Nurse Outreach Program, AmeriHealth, and Gateway Health, with a focus on health trainings such as oral health, healthy hygiene, and the importance preventative medical care for children and families. In addition, members of these community programs will serve on the Health Services Advisory Committee, which directly supports the UCLA Health Care Institute that CAHS is a part of. The institute is based on a comprehensive approach to health promotion. We partnered with Pinnacle Health on their Eat Smart, Play Smart program, which was an eight-week wellness program working with our preschoolers and teachers to promote fitness and nutrition. Lessons included activities and snacks that taught children how to make healthy choices.
  • Shippensburg University, in collaboration with Harrisburg Area Community College, was awarded one of the three Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants in Pennsylvania. The grant provides funds to develop programs designed to strengthen early childhood education. Shippensburg is using the grant to develop a Center for Early Childhood Education that will reach out into the community. Capital Area Head Start is one of three early childhood partners. This grant allowed staff who were interested in working toward an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s in early childhood education the opportunity to earn 9-12 college credits for free. The grant is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning and Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education.

Other Notable Accomplishments

We celebrated many notable accomplishments, both in and out of the classroom.

  • The Capital Area Head Start uses the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to measure adult-child interaction in the classroom. On a scale of 1-7, program averages for 2019-2020 are 6.32 in emotional support, 5.87 in classroom organization, and 3.81 in instructional support, surpassing the national benchmarks of 4, 3, and 2, respectively.
  • We successfully opened three new sites: Salvation Army, Community Connection Center, and Banks Street Center. We now have secure programming for 176 state-funded children and their families at Banks Street – a major accomplishment for the year.
  • CAHS has moved to a paperless documentation system. This allows for better access to information for teachers and support staff and allows CAHS to reduce paper costs.
  • The Office of Head Start (OHS) has renewed our contract for a new five-year period.

Mission-Related Achievements

  • Capital Area Head Start was a successful recipient of funds from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Head Start to move 192 children in 12 classes to a six-hour class day from Monday-Friday during the school year. We implemented the new class schedule. As background, the Office of Head Start released new Head Start Performance Standards in 2016. This was the first completed overhaul since 1975. Perhaps the biggest change was the increase in minimum program hours. This new requirement more than doubled the amount of time that Head Start children spend in the classroom, increasing their opportunities for high-quality interactions with their teachers and peers. Research indicates that programs with longer days and years are associated with greater gains in cognitive skills. These new requirements are based on research and evidence that shows that students who spend more time in high-quality early learning programs learn more and are better prepared for kindergarten. In addition, CAHS received funds from the State for the Head Start Supplemental and Assistance Program, which were used to increase classroom duration.
  • Capital Area Head Start was one of 30 programs selected nationally to participate in the UCLA/Johnson and Johnson Building Healthy Communities Program. Staff attended with a community partner from a local behavioral health agency. We focused on a project to implement when we returned, which will improve the health and wellness of our staff.
  • Coordinators and center directors meet every other month to provide case management for children, families, and individual site needs. Case management is a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation, coordination, observation, and advocacy for options and services to meet a child’s or family’s comprehensive needs through communication and collaboration.

Training and Cross Collaboration

  • We implemented the first transitional classroom model at our Community Connection Center. Children attended two days a week for a shorter class day as they learned to follow routines and engage with PEERs. The goal is for children to transition back to the regular classroom with these skills in place.
  • CAHS collaborated with Penn State Harrisburg, Shippensburg University, and Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) to place early education students with our program for field experience. Eighteen Penn State students, 12 students from Shippensburg, and many HACC students gained early childhood education experience and observed teacher practices in CAHS classrooms. Additionally, 10 occupational therapy graduate students from Messiah College completed their fieldwork experience in several CAHS classrooms, gaining knowledge of early childhood issues and environments.
  • CAHS partners with HACC Dental Hygiene Program.
  • We held virtual observations for seven HACC ECE students. The student feedback was uniformly positive, with comments indicating they were impressed with the engagement level with children in virtual lessons and the personal connections teachers made with the children despite the physical distance.
  • CAHS continued its partnership with Susquehanna Service Dogs, bringing SSD Rico into many classrooms. The teaching staff prepare the children for a visit by providing them with information about service dogs. SSD Rico uses his “listening ears” by following the verbal cues of sit, down, stay, take it, leave it and go on through. The class discusses how SSD Rico gets his bucket filled when he responds to cues and how they fill their buckets for following classroom rules. The visits are opportunities to reinforce the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support (PBIS) motto, “Take care of yourself, your friends, and your home and school.”
  • Retired teachers from Delta Kappa Gamma Society- Beta Iota Chapter generously donated blankets and books to several of our Head Start centers.
  • Tonya Jasper, Enrollment and Family Support Specialist (EFSS) for Capital Area Head Start in the Early Head Start program, recently received the Francine Bunch Award from the Pennsylvania Head Start Association (PHSA). This honor is presented to a parent and a staff person from a PHSA member organization who has exemplified Francine Bunch’s commitment to Head Start. Francine Bunch began her involvement with Head Start as a parent with the Lancaster Child Development Program. She was an active parent at the center, now named in honor of her memory, volunteering in the classroom and for parent activities. The program recognized Francine’s devotion to involving parents with their child’s development and the community by her promotion to Parent Involvement Coordinator.
  • CAHS participated in the American Literacy Corporation’s first 100 Women Reading event in November. Twelve women leaders from the community signed up to read in our Head Start classrooms.  Along with the 100 Women Reading event, CAHS also participated in the 500 Men reading challenge and hosted Charles Hooker, CEO of KHS, as he read at the centers.

Financial Information

We receive both public and private funds to continue our mission. Three quarters of our budget is spent on salaries and benefits, and the remaining funding is dedicated to service operations, including parent activities, classroom supplies, and professional development.

Approved Budget for 2019-2020 Fiscal Year  
Heath and Human Services Head Start $6,973,849.00
Early Head Start Pennsylvania Department of Education $1,538,688.00
Pre-K Counts 3,762,500.00
Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program $2,277,946.00
OCDEL Home visitation  
MIECHV $449,056.00
Other $815,346.00
Capital Area Intermediate Unit $301,630.00
USDA $576,840.00
Total Received $16,695,855.00


On-Site Review and Financial Audit

Federal legislation requires that all Head Start programs receive a comprehensive on-site review. CAHS’s most recent review was conducted in April 2018 and no areas of non-compliance were found. In addition, there were no findings or material weaknesses as a result of the last financial audit on June 30, 2020.


The ability to find stable, high quality, and affordable classroom space in the areas of greatest need in Harrisburg and Steelton has become our most pressing and ongoing challenge. We have been working with school districts, churches, community advocates, and realtors to try and find space. Our waiting list numbers continue to increase, as to various other funding avenues. However, the lack of space makes any expansion increasingly difficult.

Recruitment and retention of qualified and diverse early childhood staff has also been a struggle for us, as well as all early childhood programs throughout Pennsylvania. Balancing budgets and implementing unfunded mandates and new initiatives that various funders require also remains an ongoing challenge. In addition, aggressive and unsafe behaviors occurring in classrooms have increased.

Capital Area Head Start continues to help families navigate challenges and barriers related to accessing appropriate supports for children with challenging behaviors. Waiting lists at provider agencies often create a situation where a child’s safe participation is delayed until needed supports are in place and successful.

To address these challenges, Capital Area Head Start, in coordination with Keystone Human Services, is actively participating in ongoing strategic planning to ensure that we continue to address the external and internal challenges, as well as maintain strong service performance and financial positions.

In response to the ever changing needs of children and families, Capital Area Head Start embraces the future, confident that it will continue to expand and positively impact the communities of central Pennsylvania.