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How to open a Commercial Child Care Business

The City of Philadelphia regulates childcare facilities for zoning, building, health and fire code compliance. If you are planning to operate such a facility, you will need to know what type of child care/use group you intend to apply for in order to fill out the appropriate documentation.

Child care facilities in the Philadelphia are divided into two types: residential family/group child care and commercial child care centers/commercial group child care

This page describes the process for opening a commercial and group child care gusiness.  You can also view a pdf of the guide and a video series with information on opening a child care business in Philadelphia.

 

What is a Commercial Child Care Business?

A Commercial Child Care business that cares for children who are not related to you and the building is not your home.  This includes adult care and after care programs.  Commercial Child Care Businesses are always located in a property zoned Commercial.

Child Care Center – 13 or more children

Group child care – up to 12 children depending on your location

Steps to Opening a Commercial Child Care Business

Step 1. Obtain a Business Income and Receipts

Every individual, partnership, association and corporation engaged in a business, profession or other activity for profit within the City of Philadelphia is required to file a Business Income & Receipts Tax Return, whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year. To get your Business Income and Receipts Tax ID , follow the steps below.

  1. Register online: https://ework.phila.gov/revenue/

OR

  1. Print the application found here https://business.phila.gov/media/combined-BIRT-and-CAL.pdf and submit it in person to the Department of Revenue at the Municipal Services Building, located at 1401 JFK Boulevard Philadelphia, PA. Do not mail your application.

Once your application is approved, your Business Income and Receipts ID will be mailed to you or emailed to you.

Step 2. Obtain Commercial Activity License

A Commercial Activity License is needed to conduct business within Philadelphia. Prior to applying for any additional business licenses in the City of Philadelphia, you will first need to obtain a Commercial Activity License.

[NOTE: There is NO FEE for the Commercial Activity License]

  1. Register for Commercial Activity License: www.phila.gov/li

OR

    1. Print out this application https://business.phila.gov/media/combined-BIRT-and-CAL.pdf and submit in person to the Department of Licenses and Inspections at the Municipal Services Building, located at 1401 JFK Boulevard Philadelphia. Do not mail your application.

Once your Commercial Activity License is application is approved, it will be mailed to you or your can print it from your eClipse account.

Step 3. Zoning and Use

Zoning and Use Permit- zoning is what determines what you are permitted to do in your property.  A Commercial Child Care business must be located in a building zoned Commercial.  Check the Zoning of your property to see if Commercial Child Care is permitted.

To find the zoning of your property go to the Office of Property Assessment Property Search.

If your building is zoned Commercial, you can apply for a Zoning/Use Permit.

If you can operate by-right, you will be given a Use Permit once your application has been reviewed by Department of Licenses and Inspections staff (about 20 business days).

What if my building doesn’t have the right zoning? –   If you cannot operate by-right, your application will be denied, and you will need to apply for a Use Variance.  Refer to the Zoning Administrative Manual for complete instructions on applying for a variance.

Planning Best Practice:  When selecting a location for your business, it’s a good idea to find a building that is already zoned for Child Care “Use.” If you want to operate in a building that is not zoned for the type of use required, you will have to apply for a variance.  The variance process can be costly and time-consuming and there is no guarantee that it will be granted.

Step 4. Building Code Requirements

Any building where a Child Care business operates will need to meet City Building Code Requirements.  Use the chart below to determine the Classification of your child care business and the building codes required for that classification.

Steps for building plans:

  1. Submit Building Permit (This is necessary if there will be construction or alterations to the property)
  2. Once approved, begin construction/renovations
  3. Once construction/renovations are complete, Licenses and Inspections will inspect.
  4. If approved, you may pick up the Certificate of Occupancy.

 

# of Children Located In Ages of Children Hours of operation Conditions Classification
6 or more NOT within an accessory to a one or two family dwelling (B-420.1.1) 5 or fewer children are 2 1/2 yrs of age or younger (B-305.2, under threshold of B-308.5.2) Less than 24 hours (otherwise see B-308.3.1) Educational, supervision or personal care services (B-305.2) Group/Center E
6 or more NOT within an accessory to a one or two family dwelling (B-420.1.1) More than 5 are 2 1/2 years of age or younger (B-308.5.2) Less than 24 hours (B-308.5.2) Supervision and personal care services (B-305.2) Group/Center I-4 (B-308.5.2; see exception for conditions where child care is on grade level with direct exit)
More than 12 but no more than 100 (B-308.5.2 exception) NOT within an accessory to a one or two family dwelling (B-420.1.1) More than 5 are 2 1/2 years of age or younger (B-308.5.2 exception) Less than 24 hours (B-308.5.2) Child care rooms are located on level of exit discharge.  Each child care room has an exit door direct to exterior (B-308-5.2 exception) Group/Center E (B-308.5.2 exception)
More than 12 but no more than 100 (B-308.5.2 exception) More than 5 are 2 1/2 years of age or younger (3B-308.3.1) on a 24 hour basis (B-308.5.2) Group/Center I-2 (B-308.3.1)

 

Step 5. Complete Food Safety courses and obtain a ServSafe Food Safety Certificate

Commercial Child Care businesses are required to obtain ServSafe Food Safety Training which teaches providers how to prepare and serve food safely.  Once you have completed training, you will receive a Food Safety Certificate.  This certificate demonstrates you commitment to providing a quality Child Care service.

  1. Schedule an in-person 16 hour Commercial Food Safety Training Course.  Online training is NOT acceptable to receive this certificate.
  2. Once you have completed ServSafe Training, apply for Health Department Food Safety Certificate

Step 6. Schedule Health Inspection

It is important that you can demonstrate that your facility meets Health Department regulations.  A Health Department Sanitarian will be inspecting for many things including but not limited to safe food handling practices, bathroom cleanliness, safe water temperature, and pest control.  Please refer to the City and State Health Requirements for Child Care to familiarize yourself with Health Requirements.

  1. Submit a Stationary Food Plan Review
  2. If approved, the Health Department will send a letter within 30 days with a phone number for you to schedule your Health Inspection
    • If you pass your Health Inspection, you will receive the License Eligibility Report (LER)The LER is required for your Food License and is only valid for 30 days.
    • If you do not pass your Health Inspection, you have 30 days to make corrections and schedule a re inspection.

NOTE: If your Child Care facility is only reheating pre-packaged food that was prepared at an off-site facility, you may be eligible for a Limited Cooking Waiver.  The Limited Cooking Waiver exempts the facility from the commercial exhaust range hood requirement.  It is not an exemption from the Food Preparing and Serving License.

Step 7. Fire Safety Requirements

Commercial Child Care facilities are required to comply with the Fire Code Fire Safety Regulations.  Unannounced Fire Inspections are conducted annually.  A the annual inspection you are required to show:

  1. Fire Evacuation Plans and Shelter in Place Plans
    • NOTE: Only I Use Commercial Classification Groups are required to have their Fire Evacuation Plans and Shelter in Place Plans stamped by the Fire Department fire Prevention Unit.  Call (215) 686-1382 to schedule a review.  See the Classification chart in the Building Code section to determine if you are an I Use Classification Group.
  2. Fire Drill records for Fire Evacuation and Shelter in Place Plans.
  3. Annual Fire Safety Training records for each employee.

Step 8. Apply for your Food Prep and Serving License

All Commercial Child Care facilities are required to have a Food License.  This includes facilities that are serving pre-packaged foods or foods the children bring from home.

NOTE: You will need your License Eligibility Report (LER) from Step 6 to apply for the Food Preparation and Serving License

  1. Apply for your Food Preparation and Serving License
    1. Register for Commercial Activity License: www.phila.gov/li

OR

Print out this application https://business.phila.gov/media/Food-Service-License.pdf and submit in person to the Department of Licenses and Inspections at the Municipal Services Building, located at 1401 JFK Boulevard Philadelphia. Do not mail your application.

Step 9. Apply for Certification with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

After you have received your City license, you can send your information to the State.  Please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Office of Child Development and Early Learning at 215-560-2807).

Once you register with the State, you will automatically be enrolled in Keystone STARS, Pennsylvania’s continuous quality improvement program.

Document Checklist

At the end of this process, you should have all the following paperwork prepared and available:

  • Business Income & Receipts ID (BIRT)
  • Commercial Activity License (CAL)
  • Zoning Use Permit
  • Food Safety Certificate
  • License Eligibility Report (LER)
  • City of Philadelphia Food Preparing and Serving License
  • Pennsylvania State Department of Human Services- Child Care License

Planning Best Practice: Keep track of your documents by keeping everything organized in a binder.