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National Accreditation

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The City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department has earned national accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). The formal announcement was made at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) 2011 Congress and Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. The City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department is only one of a few agencies in the country to receive national accreditation, which confirms an agency’s commitment to quality and efficiency.

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CAPRA recognizes park and recreation agencies for excellence in operation and service while providing assurance to the public that the agency meets national standards of best practice. CAPRA’s standards for national accreditation provide an authoritative assessment tool for park and recreation agencies. Through compliance with the standards of excellence, CAPRA accreditation assures that an agency has been independently evaluated against established benchmarks as delivering a high level of quality.

CAPRA accreditation is the only national accreditation for park and recreation agencies. Accreditation is a five-year cycle that includes three phases: development of the agency self-assessment report, the on-site visitation, and the Commission’s review and decision. Within each of the four years between on-site visits, the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department must submit an annual report that addresses its continued compliance with the accreditation standards.

The City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department serves the seventh largest city in Florida with a population of nearly 180,000. Blessed with over 3,000 hours of sunshine each year and pleasant year-round ocean breezes, the agency offers premier opportunities for recreation, relaxation and enjoyment by providing a safe, superior environment and unique, quality programming for our diverse community.

Overview of the Agency Accreditation Process

The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) standards for national accreditation provides an authoritative assessment tool for park and recreation agencies. Through compliance with the standards of excellence, CAPRA accreditation assures policy makers, department staff, the general public and taxpayers that an accredited park and recreation agency has been independently evaluated against established benchmarks as delivering a high level of quality.

Every park and recreation agency, whatever its focus or field of operation, is rightfully concerned with the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations. With the importance of park and recreation programs and services to the quality of life, each agency has an essential role in the lives of the people it serves. CAPRA accreditation is a quality assurance and quality improvement process demonstrating an agency’s commitment to its employees, volunteers, patrons and community.

Accreditation Process

CAPRA accreditation is a five-year cycle that includes three phases: development of the agency self-assessment report, the on-site visitation, and the Commission’s review and decision. The on-site visitation follows the agency’s development of its self-assessment report. If accreditation is granted by the Commission at its meeting following the on-site visit, the agency will develop a new self-assessment report and be revisited every five years. Within each of the four years between on-site visits, the agency will submit an annual report that addresses its continued compliance with the accreditation standards. The complementary publication, CAPRA Accreditation Handbook, sets forth in detail the accreditation process and procedures.

The steps involved in the accreditation process are as follows:

  1. Preliminary Application
  2. Formal Accreditation Application and Self-Assessment
  3. Visitation/On Site Evaluation
  4. Accreditation
  5. Annual Report

Understanding Standards

A standard is a statement of desirable practice as set forth by experienced professionals. In evaluating an agency for accreditation, the standards are a measure of effectiveness using the cause and effect (“if . . . then”) approach. If one acts in a certain way, then it is expected that there will be a certain outcome. In practice, if an agency complies with a given standard, then it is expected that the agency’s operations related to that standard will be positively affected. Viewed holistically, if an agency complies with the vast majority of the standards (i.e., all fundamental standards and at least 85 percent of the remaining), then it is understood that the agency is performing a quality operation. Standards enable evaluation by comparing what is found within an agency operation to what is accepted by professionals as desirable practices.

These standards are not a quantitative measure of the local availability of funds, lands, personnel, etc. and should be distinguished from other types of standards which address specific elements, such as open space standards, which are population-based, and playground equipment standards, which are product-based. These qualitative standards for accreditation are comprehensive, dealing with all aspects of agency operations.

The standards provide an effective and credible means of evaluating a park and recreation agency’s overall system. The standards apply to all park and recreation systems, inasmuch as they are considered to be the elements for effective and efficient operations. Most agencies administer both park and recreation functions; however, some agencies only administer recreation programs and services, not park systems, and others only administer park systems, not recreation programs and services. Additionally, the jurisdictional structure of agencies differs throughout the country, with many agencies operating under municipal authority, while others operate under county, park district, or other structures. Further, the standards apply to agencies of all sizes in terms of personnel, budget, and population served. It is recognized that each community is unique and may meet the standards in differing ways.

About the Commission

The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies is a 13-member board composed of representatives from:

  • American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (4 representatives)
  • National Recreation and Park Association (4 representatives)
  • International City/Council Management Association (1 representative)
  • Council of State Executive Directors (1 representative)
  • American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (1 representative)
  • National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (1 representative)
  • Armed Forces Recreation Society (1 representative)

The Commission is administratively sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association, but acts with independence and under its own authority in determining accreditation standards and conferring accreditation of applicant agencies.

For more information, please visit the National Recreation and Parks Association website at www.nrpa.org.