Voice From the Heart Award 2019: The Pergament Family

Dr. Eugene PergamentThe Pergament family’s lifelong devotion to helping children with special needs was born from Dr. Eugene Pergament and Geraldine’s careers and an essential belief as a family in the importance of ensuring that every individual has opportunities to succeed and share talents, abilities, and gifts with others.

Dr. Pergament, an emeritus faculty member at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the world’s leading reproductive geneticists, and Geraldine, a developmental psychologist who worked primarily with emotionally disturbed children, also instilled in raising their children that “you can do well by doing good.”

Their children listened as Rachel Pergament was a professor at UCLA and also served as the Director of the Roseville Library System in Roseville, California.  Rachel conceived and created the partnership Child’s Voice now has with Beit Micha.  Rachel has been instrumental in organizing the partnership and encouraging the collaboration.  Rachel also served on the Child’s Voice Board.

Deborah and Rachel PergamentDeborah Pergament founded the Children’s Law Group, a law firm devoted to helping special needs children and their families, and is considered a leading advocate in the area of special education law in Illinois.

Deborah was the first Pergament family member to become involved in Child’s Voices, which started after Children’s Law Group prevailed in a case involving a child with cochlear implants against the Chicago Public Schools.

After that case, Deborah was asked to serve on the Board of Child’s Voice.  At the same time, Deborah concentrated on becoming as knowledgeable about children with hearing loss as possible, and Children’s Law Group started representing more children with hearing loss.  Representing children with hearing loss using spoken language and listening skills has become a significant part of Children’s Law Group’s practice and a very important element of Deborah’s professional endeavors.

In addition to Children’s Law Group, Deborah ran the DePaul Special Education Advocacy Clinic from 2009-2014.  Prior to being in private practice, Deborah worked for four years as an Assistant Public Guardian.  Deborah also serves on Board of Trustees of the Roycemore School, an independent school,  preK-12, in Evanston of which she is a graduate.

Both daughters were very much influenced by their mother Geraldine who worked for many years at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School and Rush Day School.

Geraldine and Dr. Pergament’s involvement with Child’s Voice includes funding the start-up of Child’s Voice’s Early Intervention Center located in the Roscoe Village neighborhood.  They have also underwritten the partnership between Child’s Voice and Beit Micha, a multidisciplinary center focused on the therapeutic and educational needs of children with hearing loss from birth to first grade based in Tel Aviv.

Dr. Pergament, the grandson of Jewish immigrants and the son of a sign painter, revolutionized the field of reproductive genetics and became a prominent advocate for reproductive justice, as well as for the rights of children with disabilities. Eugene began his medical career specializing in pediatric genetics then transitioned to reproductive genetics in the early 1980s.

While practicing as a pediatric geneticist, he provided counseling to families affected by genetic conditions and oversaw evaluation and treatment programs for children with developmental and neuromuscular disabilities. As a reproductive geneticist, Eugene has provided clinical services to thousands of patients in the Chicago area and helped to develop techniques that are utilized throughout the world to provide information to pregnant women and their partners.

Dr. Pergament supports early intervention and educational services for children with disabilities and has made significant contributions to the development of newborn screening programs throughout the United States. In caring for patients regardless of their age, Dr. Pergament was known for his compassion, patience, humor and kindness.

He has collaborated with attorneys, legal scholars, and bioethicists on policy studies, articles and book chapters about ethical, legal, and social issues arising from genetic testing and technologies. This work has focused on promoting the ethical use of genetic information.

Dr. Pergament is highly regarded in Israel, Asia and Europe. He has been recognized at the annual Fetal Medicine Foundation World Congress and other symposia sponsored by the Fetal Medicine Foundation (FMF), headquartered in London.

The entire Pergament family have dedicated their lives to supporting and advocating for children with medical and special needs and each has shown unwavering support for less fortunate families who lack resources and, therefore, access to services.