Annual Accomplishments


During the 2022-2023 program year, Capital Area Head Start served 742 Head Start children and 199 Early Head Start children. With a renewed focus on in-person services, CAHS attendance increased to 77% up from 70% the previous program year.

This year, 99% of our preschool families have health insurance, 99% have a medical home, 93% of our children are up to date with immunizations, and 94% have a dental home. For Early Head Start, 97% of the children have health insurance, and 100% have a medical home.

Even through staffing shortages and changing community needs, 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)

CAHS hired the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College to complete the community assessment to provide a comprehensive analysis of community needs. The information gathered in this assessment will provide direction for organizational goals.

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 engagement 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. These topics are collected through the Family Partnership Agreement process, which is completed with each enrolled family.

Every enrolled 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 positive behavioral interventions and supports.
  • 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. These steps are repeated in January post-winter break to help ease children back into the daily routine.
  • 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.
  • We continue to bestow the Silver Bucket Award, which is given to staff who best exemplify the PBIS motto. This year’s winners include a Behavior Guidance Specialist, a teacher, and a teaching team. 22-23 brought about the largest number of nominees with 19.
  • 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 centers 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 2022-2023 for children ages 3-5 show growth of greater than one year in all domains within a nine-month school year period. Thirty-four learning indicators were assessed for each child. Nine indicators showed growth of over 1.5 years of development. Twenty-two indicators showed growth of over one year of development. Three indicators showed growth of just under one year of development. All 14 indicators in our focus growth areas of phonemic awareness, alphabet knowledge, Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM), and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), showed growth of over one year of development with four indicators being over 1.5 years of development.

Early Head Start children showed the most progress in the Creative Arts domains, which include Music, Art, Pretend Play, and Movement. The increase in Creative Arts may be attributed to the focus on using in-home materials as learning tools, allowing children and families to be creative in using open-ended materials.

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.

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 families and school districts. Our school readiness goals have been revised to reflect our new assessment, the HighScope Child Observation Record.

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)
  • 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.

During the summer of 2023, forty Early Head Start children transitioning to preschool participated in a 15-day in person preschool readiness program. Aimed at assisting children to develop the necessary social-emotional skills for preschool, the program prepared the EHS children and families for their Fall preschool placement.

CAHS also hosted a virtual learning program for children transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. 76 children participated in this program which focused on school readiness skills.

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.
  • CAHS has worked with Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, a long-standing diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm, resulting in the creation of a task force within CAHS. The task force consisted of direct service staff and leadership, reflecting many domains of diversity. Initiatives from this task force include a focus on staff empowerment and recognizing the tenure and accomplishments of staff, along with ensuring that staff reflect the communities we serve.
  • CAHS, in partnership with Susquehanna Service Dogs, has welcomed two facility dogs to the program. SSD Rico and SSD Russet provide social-emotional support to children, and staff!
  • Keystone’s partnership with Fulton Bank provides an opportunity for CAHS families to engage in Financial Literacy workshops.
  • The Keystone Partnership arranged for volunteers to assist with organizing the CAHS storage sheds.
  • Several Messiah University students from both the Early Childhood Education program and the Occupational Therapy program completed their Spring semester practicum requirements in CAHS classrooms. This was a successful and valuable experience for the students, CAHS teachers and children!
  • To better meet the needs of children with disabilities, and to address the waiting list in Cumberland County, CAHS partnered with the CAIU to open four classrooms at Capital Area Early Learning Center (CAELC). Each classroom meets or exceeds the PKC staffing requirement, with CAHS and CAIU partnering to provide a third staff person in each classroom to meet the specialized needs of children with individualized education plans. This allows us to provide environments that are inclusive of children with varied developmental needs. At CAELC, the center is staffed with multiple bilingual employees to meet the wide-ranging language needs of enrolled families.

Other Notable Accomplishments

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

  • The Early Head Start program moved to the Martin Luther King Jr building, creating CAHS’s first EHS hub.
  • CAHS hosts a Teacher Representative Group comprised of teachers who volunteer to represent all CAHS teachers and weigh in on decision-making regarding curriculum and program-wide initiatives. This is one avenue CAHS offers for teacher input, reflection and impact.
  • Recently CAHS has introduced two new specialist positions that sit between a support staff level and coordinator level on the organization chart. This has enabled CAHS to create a professional pathway for staff to move forward in the organization while gaining experience and leadership opportunities necessary for a management role.
  • CAHS has been able to bring in new hires quicker recently.  With the introduction of electronic FBI clearance results, we are hopeful that we will be able to remove one more hurdle to moving quickly to complete background checks and make employment offers.
  • CAHS has started an initiative entitled Educator of the Month to recognize outstanding teaching staff (teachers, associate teachers, home visitors) who were nominated by members of the education team.
  • Sandra Guibas, CAHS Health Coordinator, was the recipient of Pennsylvania Head Start Association’s (PHSA) Francine Bunch Award at their annual conference. The Francine Bunch Memorial Award is given to a parent and a staff person from a PHSA member organization displaying the qualities of Francine Bunch. This is CAHS’s third staff member to receive this award. Previous winners include Tonya Jasper, Social Services Specialist, and Shelly Bohner, Office Manager.
  • CAHS hosted its annual Staff Wellness Day on March 17. The day focused on fun, food, and fellowship. Silver Bucket Award Winners were announced, and all staff were recognized for their tenure with Keystone and CAHS.

Mission-Related Achievements

  • CAHS offers a workforce development program for CAHS parents wherein parents participate in on-the-job training along with professional development. This work supports the onboarding of new staff and furthers our efforts to recruit staff who represent the children and families we serve. This program also helps parents meet their personal goals of gaining employment and supports them in their journey to self-sufficiency. Currently, 28% of CAHS staff were once Head Start parents.
  • A former CAHS staff member facilitated a coat drive at her church and provided us with 150 children’s coats. Another former staff person organized outreach efforts through her church and is providing items to help meet basic needs for some families at our Carlisle center.
  • The staff and volunteers at SSD were incredibly generous to our Head Start children and families, by providing gifts and coats to families during the holidays!
  • The CAHS Health Team has received training in sending alerts to families regarding contagious illness. Through ChildPlus, the health team can alert families in a timelier manner via email and text messages to inform them of contagious illness in the classroom. This enables the health team to communicate directly with the families and helps to lighten the load on the teachers and center directors.
  • In Preschool services, there has been a focus on incorporating STEAM initiatives throughout the day. STEAM is important because it helps teachers incorporate multiple disciplines at the same time and promotes learning experiences that allow children to explore, question, research, discover, and exercise innovative building skills. The point of STEAM is to inspire inquiry and curiosity; to empower students to ask thought-provoking questions that promote creativity and exploration, and to connect their problem-solving to real-world solutions.

Training and Cross Collaboration

  • CAHS has begun to provide financial assistance to staff who are pursuing licensure or certification. CAHS assisted three staff with fees related to early childhood teaching certification testing and two staff with fees related to moving from a Level I to a Level II teaching certification.
  • A teacher who has been with CAHS for 12 years recently completed her master’s degree. In her time with CAHS, she has earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. She is now planning to take the exam to become ECE certified.
  • Two Directors enrolled in Cornell for leadership classes.
  • CAHS did a presentation for the staff at the International Service Center, in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the CAHS program, and to explore ideas for collaborating in ways that best support shared families.
  • CAHS continues to work with Randy Shroyer and Mark Ernst on expanding the Business Intelligence (BI) tool to include staff hours, overtime, child attendance, and child enrollment data.
  • 177 professional development opportunities for staff occurred during the 2022-2023 program year.
  • 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.

Head Start Financial Info 2022 2023


Grant Amounts for Fiscal Year 2022-2023  
Health and Human Services  
Head Start $7,558,225.00
Early Head Start $1,695,441.00
Pennsylvania Department of Education  
Pre- K Counts $3,400,000.00
Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program $2,629,772.00
Other $1,586,009.00
Total $16,869,447.00


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, Steelton, and the West Shore 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.  Recently, CAHS was able to provide a round of pay increases, allowing us to be competitive in the ECE market.

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.