UCP/Detroit was incorporated as The Cerebral Palsy Society of Michigan on August 24, 1949. Subsequently, the Society affiliated with United Cerebral Palsy Associations and changed its name to United Cerebral Palsy Association of Metropolitan Detroit, Inc. In 1951, the organization opened the first “Cerebral Palsy Center” in Michigan. Prior to the implementation of state and federal mandatory education laws for children with disabilities, the “Society” created a “special school” offering diagnostic evaluations, physical and occupational therapies and educational opportunities for children with cerebral palsy. After the 1973 implementation of Michigan’s Mandatory Special Education Law, UCP/Detroit redirected its efforts to the provision of “day services” for adults with cerebral palsy. Although many of the agency’s “clients” felt that the day services filled a void in their lives caused by unemployment and inadequate social and recreational opportunities, the UCP/Detroit Board of Directors concluded that its philosophy of community inclusion of people with disabilities was incongruous with the segregated nature of the services offered by the agency.
In 1984-85, the UCP/Detroit Board of Directors made the difficult decision to alter the focus and the activities of the agency. The provision of direct services (day activity programs for a handful of persons with cerebral palsy) gave way to an agency focused on addressing the larger systemic problems facing people with disabilities and their families. In 1984, the Board of Directors concluded that in order to be of real benefit to people with disabilities, UCP/Detroit must hold true to its mission of assisting persons with disabilities and their families to be truly included in the community.
The UCP/Detroit Board of Directors concluded that the Agency itself had developed programs and services that fostered dependency of its clientele. The Agency’s segregated services became a major factor in the lives of the people it served, and by its nature, discouraged that acquisition of skills and experiences needed to function independently in the mainstream of community life.
To correct the contradiction between the agency’s operations and its stated mission, UCP/Detroit closed its direct service programs and embarked on the process of re-focusing resources on ADVOCACY.