Novella Jones

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, we would like to share with you the heartwarming story of Therapeutic Foster Parent Novella Jones who ended up adopting her foster child and we applaud  Ms. Jones for her 16 years of service with Gateway's Therapeutic Foster Care Program!

We sincerely appreciate Heart Gallery of Alabama for allowing us to use their article on Ms. Jones entitled "A Home to Call His Own", written by one of their previous interns, Aashana Vishnani:

Novella Jones is a 76-year-old woman with four children and six grandchildren. She was married to her now -deceased husband for 47 years. She is active in her church and retired from a job as the president's assistant at Birmingham-Southern College. And she recently adopted an 11-year-old boy.

Derian came into Jones' life as a foster child and took a piece of her heart. When she realized that there were other people looking to adopt Derian, she knew that he was her child and did not want to see him leave . This is when she decided to make it official and adopt him.

Soon after Derian was adopted, Jones stood up in the middle of her church and announced to the group that Derian was now a part of the church family. "I want you all to know that he is mine, and you have all the rights and privileges to help me with him," Jones said. She told fellow church members that they had permission to discipline her child . "I told them, 'You don't have to be scared anymore because I 'm giving you that privilege, as long as you do it in a decent way."' That was the moment it all became real for Jones.

Jones' journey began when she started taking care of children in her church. "I saw a need for the special children in my church," Jones said. "The parents would bring in the children and they would not be cleaned up." Jones did not expect that she would end up with a child of her own in a few years. 

When the leaders in Jones' church saw what she was doing, they realized that there were more children who needed help. They began a "Big Buddy, Little Buddy" program that matched children up with mentors. Jones was recognized in her church for being the person who inspired the program.

Jones ' church community grew and it was too big to host the "Big Buddy, Little Buddy" program , so the program came to an end. This is when Jones and her husband, John Jones, decided to become foster parents. Her husband passed away in October 2000. 

The first child that they fostered was "outrageous" according to Jones. However, the Joneses were patient with the child, and kept her for six months. Jones was a foster mother for fifteen years and fostered 33 children.

Derian came into Jones' home in August 2008 and Jones became attached to him. When Jones realized that other parents were interested in Derian, she received the push she needed to adopt him. He was adopted in November 2012. 

A local organization, Heart Gallery Alabama (HGA), promotes the adoption of children in foster care. Professional photographers take photographs and videos of the children, which are then exhibited around the state and on the website , HGA gives prospective parents an opportunity to learn more about available children and see them as more than words on a page. 

When HGA began recruiting for Derian, prospective parents began showing interest in him. "Our social worker told me that they had a lady in South Carolina with 12 children that wanted to adopt him," Jones said. "When she said that, it hurt my heart. I prayed about it, I cried."

According to Michelle Bearman-Wolnek , the executive director of HGA , many of their success stories happen this way. "Our focus isn't on recruiting foster parents, but indirectly we take foster parents away when we recruit for a child," said Bearman-Wolnek. "If we have other families that are interested in adoption then that foster parent is going to be more likely to adopt."

"I thought that if he goes somewhere he may get sick and that made me worried ," said Jones. "It's just like if a child of mine would be leaving me." After much deliberation and after she spoke with her family and knew she had their support, Jones began the procedure of the adoption . The adoption process went smoothly for Jones.

Life since adoption has been quite normal for Jones and Derian . They have their ups and downs, but their issues are such that every parent faces. "The main thing is making sure he gets his lesson," Jones said. "Sometimes he'll tell me that he doesn't have homework when he actually does, but that's true for any child." 

According to Jones, Derian keeps her active and doing things for him makes her feel good. "He doesn't stop me from doing anything," Jones said. "If anything, he makes me more happy."

The support of Jones' family made it much easier for her to step into the role of Derian 's mother. Her family helps her in as many ways as possible , from babysitting Derian to helping him with his homework , especially assignments that require technology that Jones may not be familiar with.

"Derian calls me grandmother; sometimes he says Mama now. He calls my daughters his sisters, and my grandkids his uncles," Jones said with a laugh. "He didn't have any other family members, no one to come around and talk to him and see him, and I realized we 're his only family."

Derian is also a gifted child in school. "He can be so humble, so kind, so sweet," said Jones about her son. He is an active child and has ADHD, but he does not get out of control.

"Derian helps me so much," said Jones. He helps Jones with everything from carrying groceries to doing chores around the house.

When he found out that he would no longer be a OHR child and that he would not be taken from place to place, he was excited. "He said, 'I don't have to sit down and listen to all the questions they ask me anymore. The only questions I know now are your questions!'" Jones said.

To find out more about how you can become a foster parent with Gateway, contact Jennifer Lackey with Gateway's Therapeutic Foster Parent Program at 205-510-2722 and to find out more about foster children in Alabama who are also waiting to find their forever family, visit 

1401 20th Street South
Birmingham, AL 35205
Gateway Family Resource Center
Fax: 205-510-2621
Gateway Residential / Day Treatment Center
5201 Messer Airport Highway
Birmingham, AL 35212