At press time, a certain 11-year-old orphan was about to be placed in a permanent home. And no one was happier about that than Sister Jane Frances Brady—“Except maybe him,” the 76-year-old Lincoln Park resident says with a smile. A volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Morris and Sussex Counties Inc. (casamsc.org), Brady supervises children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and are living in foster care or residential facilities. She oversees their care and acts as their advocate in court.
Since joining CASA in 2005, Brady, a Sister of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, has worked with 17 disabled, medically fragile, or physically or emotionally abused children, including the 11-year-old, who was adopted from a European country when he was 4. The adoption didn’t work out. Brady has been his advocate for five years and finds his placement especially rewarding. “He has a certain tug on me, I guess, because he didn’t have anybody,” she says. “His life was really chaotic, in and out of institutions, never knowing what it was like to grow up in a home with a mother and father. But the people he’s with now are just lovely to him, and he’s responding positively.”
The nun of 53 years also is a member of CASA’s Family Drug Court team, overseeing cases where kids are taken away from parents who are substance abusers. In these instances, Brady works with the child and the parent. The yearlong program’s goal is to reduce the time the kids spend in foster care and to ensure placement in a permanent home. “If they can go back to their parent, that’s the first choice,” she says. “If they can’t, the second choice is to put them in a good adoptive home.” Brady acknowledges that it’s a possibilty the parent may relapse, but she is confident in the program. “You can see the change in somebody from when we first get them to when they finish the program,” she says. “It’s sad when someone relapses. But it’s great when somebody makes it.”
Brady, who has served as president of St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, executive director of Eva’s Village in Paterson, and traveled with Healing the Children, which provides medical care to impoverished children worldwide, started doing charitable work when she was in high school. “My father and mother always encouraged volunteering,” she says. “I always found that I got far more out of it than I put into it.”