Jane Ross has rat-cunning and street-smarts, having grown up in the back alleys. Despite her impoverished background, she is highly intelligent, having taught herself to read while caring for her mentally unwell mother. Up until recently, Jane has been living at a hellish boarding house where she was forced to steal for her ‘owner’ Mr Merton. When Phryne first encounters Jane on the Ballarat train she is reminded of her younger self – a good liar with a good heart. After an initial battle of wills that almost has Phryne outwitted, she fights to take Jane into her guardianship.
Miss Fisher's Guardianship
Phryne becomes attached to Jane over the course of Murder on the Ballarat Train due to the girl's personality and being reminded of her sister, and unlike other girls from the boarding house the initial investigation doesn't turn up family to claim her. When Jane asks when she will return her to Children's Welfare, Phryne says that she doesn't think she can. She is able to be named Jane's foster mother.
Jane begins school, but soon after is suspended. Before leaving, she takes the diary of the girl whose case Phryne is investigating. Phryne offers to find her a new school, or a more adventurous option such as travel, but Jane believes the school is worth it just for the library. Jane later tells her guardian how, earlier in the day, she had been informed that the school did not want to expel her because she is such a gifted student. As she finishes, Aunt Prudence arrives with a tale of how she had just used her influence to help Jane get back into the school's good graces. While Aunt Prudence's actions were unnecessary, it does show that she has accepted the girl.
Later, Jane goes to school in France.
Her biological mother makes an appearance in the episode "Queen of the Flowers" where it becomes apparent that she is a mentally unstable individual, prone to fits of paranoia which often threatened Jane's safety. Making her unable to properly care for Jane, hence why she was removed from her custody. During the episode, it becomes clear that while Jane loves her mother dearly, she recognizes that her mother is unfit to care for her, as Jane often has to take care of her instead.
Jane: They're sending me home with a letter today. Two of the girls stole Margery Johnson's shoes and glasses. She had to walk home barefoot and blind, so I slugged them.
Phryne: Sounds perfectly justified to me.