Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS) was founded in 1946 by parents of children with cerebral palsy, who sought critically needed services from government, and envisioned the organization to be their voice and their advocate. From these early beginnings to the present day, CP of NYS has served this role. Under the leadership of family members and together with its Affiliates, CP of NYS constitutes a network of service providers and advocates for individuals with disabilities across New York State, focusing on both the state and national levels. Many of the CP of NYS Affiliates also began as advocacy groups for families seeking services. Over time, groups from several regions of New York State banded together for the common purpose of collective advocacy. In the mid-1970s, with the closing of developmental centers such as Willowbrook and the deinstitutionalization of individuals with developmental disabilities, voluntary agencies such as CP of NYS and its Affiliates also began providing direct services to these individuals. CP of NYS itself has become a significant provider of such services in New York City, and its Metropolitan Services is considered an Affiliate of the state organization.

Today, the service delivery system in New York has matured into a complex array of service providers and services supported by government programs such as Medicaid. The twenty-four CP of NYS Affiliates provide a wide range of those services, including residential, clinic, day services, employment, transportation, early intervention, mental health and educational services to thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities. Each Affiliate operates in its own territory, ensuring a collaborative, non-competitive relationship with the other Affiliates. The Affiliates are significant economic forces in their communities, and many are among the largest employers in their regions.

In addition to their role as service providers, the Affiliates also maintain their historical commitment to advocate for expansion and preservation of the rights of people with disabilities and their families, and they work in partnership with their respective constituencies, including service recipients, families, employees and others in their communities toward achieving these goals.  Affiliates and the people they represent have collectively recognized the ethical principles upon which they operate, including respect for individual dignity, the importance of community inclusion and family support, and commitment to proactive advocacy, continuous improvement and responsible citizenship.

Despite their growth, all 24 Affiliates have maintained their core identities, focusing on the individual needs of the persons and families they serve.  All are separately incorporated not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporations, with family members continuing to provide the core leadership on their governing boards, and professional, highly trained and highly qualified staff providing services.  Each has voluntarily affiliated with CP of NYS for mutual support, advocacy and advancement of services to individuals with disabilities.  The Affiliates as organizations fulfill their collective purposes through a commitment to each other that is rooted in a mutual respect and appreciation for the diversity and uniqueness of each Affiliate.  The Affiliates commit to each other in honoring their shared goals, values, and leadership, and recognize their interdependence and the synergy created by their affiliation.  These principles serve the Affiliates as the foundation for their working relationship and as a guide to shared decision making.

The Affiliates, as voluntary members of CP of NYS, provide direction to the state organization through election of their own board members to serve on the CP of NYS statewide board, which, by its own bylaws, must be controlled by representatives of Affiliate boards.  Additionally, regular meetings are convened with executive and senior management so that common issues are identified and resolved.  CP of NYS provides a wide range of technical support and direct assistance to Affiliates in their role as members of the service delivery system, enhancing their ability to provide programs and services to the people they serve.  In this role, CP of NYS not only advocates for its Affiliates, but for all people with disabilities, including those not served by Affiliates.  CP of NYS has itself become a recognized expert in service delivery systems for people with disabilities, and is regularly called upon by government for advice and comment on proposals to improve those systems and to enhance the rights and services for individuals with disabilities.