The Coast News Group
Author Juan Villegas speaks to parents on at-risk youths and his book, "VIDA" at the Civic Center Library in Oceanside. Photo by Promse Yee

Author puts focus on at-risk youth at seminar

OCEANSIDE — Spanish-speaking parents received sound advice on parenting from author Juan Villegas at the Civic Center Library.In addition to being a father and law enforcement officer, Villegas has worked as a volunteer for the Orange County Bar Foundation ShortStop juvenile crime diversion program for more than a decade.

“ShortStop has an 86 percent success rate of youth who don’t reoffend before they’re 18,” Villegas said. “ShortStop is a cross between a Scared Straight program and counseling.”

He said during his 11 years working with at-risk youth between the ages of 11 to 17, he has noticed common youth and parenting behaviors that put teens at risk of making poor life choices.

With teens it is an extreme style of gangster or cult group dress that shows they want to fit in somewhere.

For parents it is a lack of leadership, violence in the home, and sexual abuse of children that puts kids at risk.

Villegas said he does not think parents should be their children’s best friends. Instead he encourages parents to do the difficult job of setting limits, intervening and following through.

“I’ve seen it all in my 20 years in law enforcement,” Villegas said. “It’s not really the kids. It’s the parents failing the kids.”

Villegas said it is not income level or neighborhood, but parenting skills that make the difference. He added that parents who gain the loyalty of their children by being grounded in their parenting skills are able to guide their kids to make good life choices.

“They want to feel loved, safe, respected,” Villegas said. “They need to know who they are counts. That they are important and we value them.”

Villegas has written his advice in a parenting guidebook “La Vida Tiene Valores,” which translates to “life has values” in English. The book, like his lectures, is specifically geared to the Latino community.

Real-life examples and celebrity references come from the Latino American experience that Villegas knows.

His book also includes traditional cultural sayings.

The book will soon be published in English.

Villegas said his goal is to share information on sound parenting and improve communication among family members.

“Old-fashioned values always work,” Villegas said. “Parents need to be grounded, give advice, and back it up. Prevention is what I’m trying to do.”

Principal Librarian Monica Chapa-Domercq said Friends of Oceanside Library sponsored the lecture in response to recent Crown Heights gang violence.

“He has his finger on the pulse of issues,” Chapa-Domercq said.

The lecture may also be scheduled at local community centers in the near future.

Villegas hosts a weekly talk radio show “Prevenir es mejor que lamenter” (or Better safe than sorry) that addresses delinquency prevention.

The program airs on International Catholic Radio (ESNE) 1670 AM KHPY and its sister stations.

He was recently selected to serve as co-chairman for the Parent Outreach Committee on Gang Prevention for the County of Orange.