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)

3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
  • office: 215.898.7540
  • fax: 215.573.2099

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.

Publications & Media

Greeson, J.K.P. (2019). Caring Adults ‘R’ Everywhere (C.A.R.E.): A Natural Mentoring Intervention for Older Youth in Foster Care. Durham, NC: I Am My Life Publishing.

Dr. Greeson’s treatment manual C.A.R.E.: A Natural Mentoring Intervention for Older Youth in Foster Care (2019) is now available for order on This comprehensive, empirically-supported guide provides practical advice on how to train and effectively engage natural mentors, as well as how to help cultivate nurturing relationships between youth in care and their natural mentors. C.A.R.E. leverages youth’s pre-existing social networks to identify adults who can be natural mentors. Youth are empowered in this process because C.A.R.E. prioritizes the youth’s preference for which adults will take on the role of natural mentor. The treatment manual includes how to assess youth’s permanent connections; guidelines for identifying, screening, and conducting background checks of potential mentors; trauma-informed training for natural mentors; program activities designed to support the development of growth-fostering relationships between the youth and their mentors, and more.

Greeson, J.K.P., Garcia, A.R., *Tan, F., *Chacon, A., & *Ortiz, A.J. (in press). Interventions for youth aging out of foster care: A state of the science review. Children and Youth Services Review.

Greeson, J.K.P., Treglia, D., Morones, S., Hopkins, M., & Mikell, D. (2020). Youth Matters: Philly (YMP): Development, usability, usefulness, & accessibility of a mobile web-based app for homeless and unstably housed youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 108. DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104586

Sulimani-Aidan, Y., Melkman, E., & Greeson, J.K.P. (2020). The contribution of mentoring to the life skills of youth leaving care in Israel. Child & Family Social Work, 25, 345-354. DOI: 10.1111/cfs.12690

Greeson, J.K.P., Treglia, D., Wolfe, D.S., Wasch, S., & Gelles, R.J. (in press). Child welfare characteristics in a sample of youth involved in commercial sex: An exploratory study. Child Abuse & Neglect.

Greeson, J.K.P., Treglia, D., Wolfe, D.S., & Wasch, S. (2019). Prevalence & correlates of sex trafficking among homeless & runaway youth presenting for shelter services. Social Work Research, 43(2), 91-99.

Greeson, J.K.P., An, S., Xue, J., Thompson, A.E., & Guo, C. (2018). Tweeting social justice: How social work faculty use Twitter. British Journal of Social Work, 48, 2038-2057.

Thompson, A.E. & Greeson, J.K.P. (2017). Prosocial activities & natural mentoring among youth at risk of aging out of foster care. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 8(3), 421-440.

Garcia, A.R., Gupta, M., Greeson, J.K.P., DeNard, C., & Thompson, A.E. (2017). Adverse childhood experiences among a child welfare sample: Results from the National Study of Child & Adolescent Wellbeing. Child Abuse & Neglect, 70, 292-302.

Greeson, J.K.P. & Thompson, A.E. (2017). Development, feasibility, and piloting of a novel natural mentoring intervention for older youth in foster care. Journal of Social Service Research, 43(2), 205-222.

Greeson, J.K.P., Weiler, L., Thompson, A.E., & Taussig, H.N. (2016). A first look at natural mentoring among preadolescent foster youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 44(5), 586-601.

Thompson, A.E., Greeson, J.K.P., & Brunsink, A.M. (2016). Natural mentoring among older youth aging out of foster care: A systematic review. Children and Youth Services Review, 61, 40-50.

Garcia, A.R., Greeson, J.K.P., Kim, M., Thompson, A.E., & DeNard, C. (2015). From placement to prison revisited: Do mental health services disrupt the delinquency pipeline among Latino, African American and Caucasian youth in the child welfare system? Journal of Adolescence, 45, 263-273.

Greeson, J.K.P., Garcia, A.R., Kim, M., & Courtney, M.E. (2015). Foster youth & social support: The first RCT of independent living services. Research on Social Work Practice, 25(3), 349-357.

Greeson, J.K.P., Garcia, A.R., Kim, M., Thompson, A.E., & Courtney, M.E. (2015). Development & maintenance of social support among aged out foster youth who received independent living services: Results from the Multi-Site Evaluation of Foster Youth Programs. Children and Youth Services Review, 53, 1-9.

Greeson, J.K.P., Thompson, A.E., Ali, S., & Stern Wenger, R. (2015). “It’s good to know that you got somebody that’s not going anywhere”: Attitudes & beliefs of older youth in foster care about child-welfare based natural mentoring. Children and Youth Services Review, 48, 140-149.

Greeson, J.K.P., Thompson, A.E., Evans-Chase, M., & Ali, S. (2015). Child welfare professionals’ attitudes and beliefs about child-welfare based natural mentoring for older youth in foster care. Journal of Social Service Research, 41, 93-112.

Layne, C.M., Greeson, J.K.P., Ostrowski, S.A., Kim, S., Reading, S., Vivrette, R.L., Briggs, E.C., Fairbank, J.A., & Pynoos, R.S. (2014). Cumulative trauma exposure and high risk behavior in adolescence: Findings from the NCTSN Core Data Set. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(S1), S40-S49.

Greeson, J.K.P., Briggs, E.C., Layne, C.M., Belcher, H.M.E., Ostrowski, S.A., Kim, S., Lee, R.C., Vivrette, R., Pynoos, R.S., & Fairbank, J.A. (2014). Traumatic childhood experiences in the 21st century: Broadening & building on the ACE studies with data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(3), 536-556.

Grinstein-Weiss, M., Yeo, Y.H., Manturuk, K.R., Despard, M.R., Holub, K.A., Greeson, J.K.P., & Quercia, R. (2013). Social capital and homeownership in low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods. Social Work Research, 37(1), 37-53.

Briggs, E.C., Fairbank, J.A., Greeson, J.K.P., Layne, C.M., Steinberg, A.M., Amaya-Jackson, L.M., Ostrowski, S.A., Gerrity, E.T., Elmore, D.L., Belcher, H.M.E., & Pynoos, R.S. (2013). Links between child and adolescent trauma exposure and service use histories in a national clinic-referred sample. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(2), 101-109.

Greeson, J.K.P. (2013). Foster youth & the transition to adulthood: The theoretical & conceptual basis for natural mentoring. Emerging Adulthood, 1(1), 40-51. (Inaugural issue)

Briggs, E.C., Greeson, J.K.P., Layne, C.M., Fairbank, J.A., Knoverek, A.M., & Pynoos, R.S. (2012). Trauma exposure, psychosocial functioning, and treatment needs of youth in residential care: Preliminary findings from the NCTSN core data set. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 5(1), 1-15. (Selected as one of 10 Best Violence Research Articles of 2012 by the journal Psychology of Violence)

Greeson, J.K.P., Briggs, E.C., Kisiel, C., Ake, G.S., Layne, C.M., Ko, S.J., et al. (2011). Complex trauma and mental health in children and adolescents placed in foster care: Findings from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Child Welfare, 90(6), 91-108.

Barth, R.P., Greeson, J.K.P., Zlotnik, S.R., & Chintapalli, L.K. (2011). Evidence-based practice for youth in supervised out- of-home care: A framework for development, definition, and evaluation. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 8(5), 501-528.

Greeson, J.K.P., Usher, L., & Grinstein-Weiss, M. (2010). One adult who is crazy about you: Can natural mentoring relationships increase assets among young adults with and without foster care experience? Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 565-577.

Grinstein-Weiss, M., Shanks, T.R.W., Manturuk, K.R., Key, C.C., Paik, J-G., & Greeson, J.K.P. (2010). Homeownership and parenting practices: Evidence from the Community Advantage Panel. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 774-782.

Greeson, J.K.P., Guo, S., Barth, R.P., Hurley, S., & Sisson J. (2009). Contributions of therapist characteristics and stability to intensive in-home therapy youth outcomes. Research on Social Work Practice, 2(19), 239-250.

Grinstein-Weiss, M., Greeson, J.K.P., Yeo, Y.H., Birdsong, S.S., Despard, M.R. & Quercia, R.G. (2009). The impact of low- and moderate-wealth homeownership on parental attitudes and behavior: Evidence from the Community Advantage Panel. Children and Youth Services Review, 31, 23-31.

Greeson, J.K.P., & Bowen, N.K. (2008). “She holds my hand” The experiences of foster youth with their natural mentors. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 1178-1188.

Grinstein-Weiss, M., Lee, J., Greeson, J.K.P., Yeo, Y.H., Han, C., & Irish, K. (2008). Fostering low-income homeownership: A longitudinal randomized experiment on Individual Development Accounts. Housing Policy Debate, 19(4), 711-739.

Barth, R.P., Greeson, J.K.P., Guo, S., Green, R.L., Hurley, S., & Sisson, J. (2007). Changes in family functioning and child behavior following intensive in-home therapy. Children and Youth Services Review, 29, 988-1009.

Barth, R.P., Greeson, J.K.P., Guo, S., Green, R.L., Hurley, S., & Sisson, J. (2007). Outcomes for youth receiving intensive in-home therapy or residential care: A comparison using propensity scores. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(4), 497-505.

Greeson, J.K.P. & Thompson, A.E. (2019). Caring Adults ‘R’ Everywhere (C.A.R.E.)©: Leveraging the power of relationships to change the lives of foster youth. In V. Mann-Feder & M. Goyette (Eds.) Leaving care & the transition to adulthood: International contributions to theory, research, & practice (pp. 279-296). New York: Oxford University Press.

Greeson, J.K.P. & Thompson, A.E. (2017). Foster care, then where? Why independent living is getting it all wrong. In J. Jackson, Jr. (Ed.), Social policy and social justice (pp. 65-73). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Greeson, J.K.P. & Thompson, A.E. (2015). Aging out of foster care in emerging adulthood. In J.J. Arnett (Ed.), Oxford handbook of emerging adulthood (pp. 559-577). New York: Oxford University Press.

Fairbank, J.A., Briggs, E.C., Carmody, K.A., Greeson, J.K.P., & Woods, B. (2014). Resilience & recovery in special populations: Children. In L.A. Zoellner & N.C. Feeny (Eds.), Facilitating resilience & recovery following traumatic events (pp. 91-112). New York: Guilford Press.

Wolfe, D.S., Wasch, S., Watson, B., Ibekwe, N., & Greeson, J.K.P. (2018). Foster care: Child welfare’s responsibility and challenge. APSAC Advisor, 30(2), 27-32.

Greeson, J.K.P. (2016, November 14). Commentary: Many foster-care youths unprepared for independent living. The Inquirer. Retrieved from

Thompson, A.E. & Greeson, J.K.P. (2015). Legal and relational permanence in older foster care youths. Social Work Today, 15(4), 24-27.

Greeson, J.K.P., Thompson, A.E., & Kinnevy, S. (2014). Natural mentoring of older foster care youths: Behavioral health benefits. Social Work Today, 14(4), 10.

Gerrity, E., Briggs, E. C., Greeson, J.K.P., Layne, C. M., Fairbank, J., Knoverek, A., & Pynoos, R. S. (2011). Trauma Exposure, Psychosocial Functioning & Treatment Needs of Youth in Residential Care. Retrieved from

Gerrity, E., Greeson, J.K.P., Layne, C.M., Fairbank, J., Pynoos, R.S., & Briggs, E.C. (2011). Complex Trauma and Mental Health of Children Placed in Foster Care: Highlights from the NCCTS Core Data Set. Retrieved from

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