Magazine article Parks & Recreation

One Step at a Time

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

One Step at a Time

Article excerpt

What's involved in agency accreditation?

This is the second of a series of four articles concerning the agency accreditation process for public recreation and park departments in the US. This article explains the process that a department will encounter when trying to become accredited.

Agency accreditation is a four-step process: the agency's application; the agency's self-assessment; the evaluation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) visitors; and meeting with the commission for it to confer, deny or defer accreditation. The process is geared toward a positive outcome-once the agency has committed to the process, has gone through the self-assessment and has requested the visit, the visitors and the commission members do everything possible, without compromising the integrity of the process, to help the agency become accredited.

Agency Application

Once an agency has decided to become accredited, the next step is to submit the preliminary application and $ 100 fee to CAPRA. The application requests the following information: the name of agency, contact information associated with the agency (chief executive, city/county manager and agency administrator) and agency profile information (type of agency, population served, budget and number of full-time staff. The $100 fee covers the cost of materials that will be sent to the agency (Self-Assessment Manual, visitation procedure documents and a computer disk for the self-assessment report). This fee also allows an agency to attend a visitor's training workshop. Agencies also receive information about upcoming training sessions and other necessary information regarding the accreditation process. The workshop is extremely valuable, because it assists the agency in becoming more familiar with the agency accreditation standards and the CAPRA visitation process.

Self-Assessment Report

The second step of the process is the self-assessment report, which must be completed within two years. (The average time to complete the accreditation process is 17 months.) This is the most critical and worthwhile step in the accreditation process, because it helps agencies use national standards to identify strengths and weaknesses of their operations and services. Because of the importance of and difficulty with this step, CAPRA provides each agency with a Self-Assessment Manual and directions on how to develop the self-assessment report. These resources allow an agency to streamline the documentation process while reducing overlap and mental anguish.

Agencies are required to provide documentation pertaining to the 36 fundamental standards and at least 85 percent of the other 119 compliance standards. Because agencies vary in size and operating budgets, the standards have been created to fairly evaluate all park and recreation agencies. For example, in a study of 25 accredited agencies, 13 served an average population of 45,000 and had an average budget of $6.1 million, while 12 served a population just more than 600,000 with a budget of $26 million.

The standards address 10 major categories, as detailed in the table at the bottom left.

After completing the self-assessment report, agencies submit a formal application and application fee to the commission. The application fee is based on the agency's operating budget. (See the following table.)

A CAPRA visit usually occurs within 60 days of the agency submitting its self-assessment report. If an agency can't complete its tasks within the two-year deadline, a one-year extension may be requested for $50. …

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