Juvenile Law Center

Dina

Dina always wanted to become a Nurse Practitioner and has worked very hard to achieve her goal. But, Dina’s juvenile record is preventing her from fulfilling that dream.

When Dina was 12 years old, her parents divorced, and she moved with her mother and siblings from their suburban home and into Section 8 housing. She immediately took on greater responsibilities, including caring for her younger siblings, acting as an interpreter for her mother who was a Haitian immigrant, and completing the family’s public benefits applications. She even obtained her first job at age 13. Like many youth, Dina responded to the added pressure by acting out. That year, she was arrested for a fight in school. By age 15, she had been adjudicated delinquent for auto theft, was serving time in a juvenile correctional facility, and she was also pregnant.

"There is not a single school in Florida that will accept me into their program in order for me to pursue a more advanced career in health care."

Motivated by her impending motherhood, Dina focused on pulling her life back together. During her six months in placement, Dina continued her education.

After she was successfully discharged from the juvenile justice system, Dina obtained her GED, married, had another child, and enrolled in college in her home state of Florida. She was thrilled to be accepted into a nursing program and eager to begin her professional career.

Unfortunately, during program orientation, she learned that her juvenile record posed an insurmountable obstacle to achieving her professional goal. Florida guidelines prohibit any individual with a criminal background, including juvenile delinquency, from being licensed in numerous healthcare professions. Dina sent more than 200 emails to colleges and admissions officials to seek admission and ask for guidance on how to pursue a career in her chosen field, all to no avail. “There is not a single school in Florida that will accept me into their programs in order for me to pursue a more advanced career in health care,” she states.

Dina’s juvenile record appears in a public background check. “Anyone with $18 can pay online and see all of my juvenile offenses.” Her juvenile record prevents Dina from participating in her community and even her own family’s life, as she is ineligible to chaperone her son’s school field trips. Under Florida law, Dina will be automatically have her juvenile record expunged in two years, when she turns 24.  However, because her records are now publicly available, long-term damage has already been done, and the records will continue to limit her opportunities.

Because of the state licensing restrictions, Dina changed her focus from nursing to physician assisting and finally to healthcare management. She graduated with her baccalaureate degree in December 2014. Inspired by her advocacy, Dina decided to pursue a career in law. She is currently in her first year at Florida A&M Law School and will be spending the summer as a Law Clerk with Juvenile Law Center. After her summer internship, she will be transferring to University of Miami Law School.

Dina was able to petition the court and get her record expunged last year. Despite the numerous barriers her record has caused, Dina remains positive about her court involvement: “I believe in the juvenile justice system," she says. "It rehabilitated me and helped me become the person I am today. But, the juvenile justice system was created because the law acknowledged that these youth could not fully understand their actions and the consequences associated with the crimes they commit. This same system is denying these same youth a true opportunity to succeed, even decades later.”

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