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Aretha Braden

The Tennessee Justice Center is honoring Aretha Braden as a 2019 Mother of the Year for the fierce love that she shows her daughter Rakia every day.

Aretha has been Rakia’s caregiver since she was 3 months old. Rakia has a variety of health conditions, including cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and respiratory and feeding problems. She is nonverbal and not able to walk. Because of all her medical complexities, Rakia wasn’t supposed to make it a year, but she is now 14 years old and still going strong. When asked about her daughter, Aretha said, “I love her. She’s my angel. She’s my miracle. I don’t treat her as a handicap—I treat her as a regular human being.”

Rakia has been on TennCare her entire life, and this has allowed her to have an in-home nurse, but for the past 4 years, TennCare has been trying to cut down the number of hours that she is allowed each month. Aretha already had to resign from her job of 18 years and start working part-time somewhere else because she needed to be home with Rakia more than her job would allow, so this cut in hours would make things even more difficult.

When she didn’t think she could fight any more, Aretha contacted the Tennessee Justice Center. “When I couldn’t speak, somebody spoke for me.” We were able to get her connected with a pro bono attorney, and they are still in the process of fighting for Rakia’s nursing hours. When asked what keeps her motivated as she continues to resist Rakia’s decrease in nursing hours, she says, “God keeps me going. He gives you the amount you can bear.”

We are glad to honor Aretha as one of our 2019 Mothers of the Year for the unending love that she shows Rakia and her determination to make sure that she gets the care she needs.

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