Headshot of Johanna Greeson

Johanna K.P. Greeson, PhD, MSS, MLSP

  • Associate Professor
  • Managing Faculty Director, The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research
  • Director, Child Well-Being & Child Welfare Specialization (CW2)
  • Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education (Secondary Appointment)
  • Research Interests

    The transition to adulthood among youth who age out of foster care

    Natural mentoring and other supportive adult relationships for youth who age out of foster care

    Child traumatic stress

    Applied community-based intervention research and translation of research to practice

    Resiliency, risk, and protective factors

    Neurobiological mechanisms of resiliency-focused interventions

    Life course theory

    Domestic minor sex trafficking

    Dr. Greeson is passionate about reforming the child welfare system, using research to build better futures for youth who age out of foster care, and realizing the power of connections to caring adults for all vulnerable youth. Her research agenda is resiliency-focused and based in the strengths and virtues that enable foster youth to not only survive, but thrive. Dr. Greeson’s published work includes scholarly articles on natural mentoring, evidence-based practices for older youth in foster care, such as independent living programming, residential group care, and intensive in-home therapy, low-income homeownership, child/adolescent traumatic stress, and domestic minor sex trafficking. Her work has been cited over 1,400 times in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature. During her doctoral training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Greeson developed an affinity for research methods, advanced statistical modeling, and collaborative multidisciplinary research. Her work on various research projects integrated the disciplines of social work, sociology, public health, advanced statistics, and economics and community development.

    Of particular note, during her PhD at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she developed a theory- and research-informed intervention for older youth in foster care, Caring Adults ‘R’ Everywhere (C.A.R.E.), intended to heal the aging out crisis. At the heart of the intervention is the cultivation of resilience through the development of supportive adult relationships for youth in care who are at risk of aging out. Dr. Greeson completed a pilot feasibility RCT of C.A.R.E. funded by the Children’s Bureau and in partnership with Philadelphia Department of Human Services in 2015. Now she is poised to continue to refine and test her natural mentoring intervention, using rigorous approaches to research design to assess its effectiveness, and then disseminate C.A.R.E. broadly to jurisdictions interested in bringing a relationship-focused, trauma-informed natural mentoring intervention to the young people aging out care in their communities. In addition to psychosocial and behavioral outcomes, she is very interested in exploring how social interventions, like C.AR.E., could change underlying brain structures and mechanisms, such as those measured by EEG and fMRI. She is intrigued by the concept of neural plasticity as a potential mediator of successful social interventions. Overall, she is eager to collaborate with developmental neuroscientists and heed the call by Cicchetti & Gunnar (2008), “…to conduct interventions that not only assess behavioral changes, but also investigate whether abnormal neurobiological structures, functions, and organizations are modifiable or refractory to therapeutic alteration (p. 740).”

    Dr. Greeson is also the co-developer of Youth Matters Philly, a web-based, mapping app that is designed to connect vulnerable and at-risk youth, like those exiting foster care or who are homeless, in Philadelphia with needed resources, like shelter, food, and clothing. She collaborated with the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia and Penn Engineering students from Hack4Impact to make the app for Philly youth.

    Dr. Greeson also supervises the Nancy Glickenhaus Fellowship in Child Welfare for advanced year MSW students, which is supported through the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research.



    office: 215.898.7540

    fax: 215.573.2099



    3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building
    Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214



    Standing Faculty | Faculty | Research Centers & Special Projects | The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research


    MSW | PhD

    Research Areas(s)

    Children, Women, Family Well-Being

    Related Links


    Curriculum Vitae >

    TEDx Talk

    How to heal the aging out crisis

    Her TEDx talk is about healing the aging out crisis affecting youth in foster care. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx