Standing Faculty > Johanna Greeson, PhD

Assistant Professor

Johanna Greeson, PhD - Penn School of Social Policy & Practice3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building, D-19
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
215.898.7540 (phone); 215.573.2099 (fax);

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 youth in foster care, residential group care, intensive in-home therapy, low-income homeownership, and child/adolescent traumatic stress.

During her doctoral training at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work, Dr. Greeson developed an affinity for research methods, advanced statistical modeling, and collaborative multidisciplinary research with a number of peers and leaders in her field. Her work on various research projects integrated the disciplines of social work, sociology, public health, advanced statistics, and economics and community development, and provided her with fluencies that allow diverse collaboration and competencies to launch a productive program of research. Of particular note, during her course work she developed a theory- and research-based intervention for older foster youth, Caring Adults ‘R’ Everywhere (C.A.R.E.). At the heart of the intervention is the cultivation of resilience through the development of supportive adult relationships for foster youth.

Dr. Greeson’s long-term research agenda is to lead innovative social intervention research with and on behalf of oppressed or marginalized groups. Specifically, one of her early career goals is the development and testing of C.A.R.E., which is designed to build resilience in older foster youth by facilitating connections to caring adults. Additional components include a “trauma focus” and other resilience enhancing elements, such as, development of self-regulation skills, facilitation of positive self-beliefs, and supporting the belief that life has meaning. A parallel and related goal is to use advanced multivariate models, as well as rigorous approaches to research design to assess effectiveness of this intervention. 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 are refractory to therapeutic alteration (p. 740).”

Professional & Research Specialization:

  • 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

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)