NEARLY a quarter of the children who died in NSW last year were known to authorities, including 46 babies and 15 teenagers who died by suicide. Another two children on the Department of Communities and Justice radar died by inflicted or suspicious injuries, and two by drug overdose. The 15 reported teen deaths to suicide or suspected suicide is the largest number since public reporting began in 2010. The Minister for Families and Community Services and Member for Port Stephens, Kate Washington yesterday, Tuesday, November 28 tabled the department's Child Deaths 2022 Annual Report. In it, Ms Washington says she was moved by "the tragic loss of life" it described. "Behind the statistics reflected in this year's report are the stories of 111 children and young people who died in 2022 and were known to the NSW child protection system," Ms Washington said in her foreword. "To the families and communities who knew and loved these children, I am deeply sorry for your loss." The secretary Michael Tidball said 'sadly, there are some hard truths we must face' including an over-representation of Aboriginal children. The children featured in the report were known to the department because they, or one of their siblings had been reported at risk of significant harm in the three years before hand, or the child was in out of home care when they died. There were more deaths of children known to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) in 2022 than in any of the four years prior. Physical abuse and domestic violence were the main issues reported for the children who died in 2022, but most were suspected to be at risk from and/or experiencing multiple types of harm, most commonly physical abuse (66 children); domestic violence (60 children); physical neglect (59 children); emotional abuse or neglect (55 children); parental alcohol or drug use (52 children); and sexual abuse (49 children). The report says that the cases of three children were closed despite being assessed as high or very high risk, after being referred to a non-government service provider. The department's policy position is that families who are assessed as high or very high risk should receive ongoing casework until the risk has been mitigated. "There is an opportunity to improve and strengthen how DCJ makes these referrals to ensure that families are connected to and receiving a service before DCJ stops working with a family," the report says. For the 45 kids who were not seen by a caseworker in the three years before they died, the reasons included that DCJ had earlier reports about a sibling but not the child who later died; the child died in out-of-home care and there had been no assessment for three years; the child died before the case was allocated for assessment; or DCJ had referred the child and their family to a DCJ-funded program and subsequently closed the report. The other reason was capacity - where there were not enough resources to allocate a caseworker. A key issue identified in a report from the NSW Auditor General also released on Tuesday was the 27 per cent increase in the cost of out-of-home-care and permanency support since 2019-2020 - a spend of $1.9 billion in 2022-23. A performance audit report focused on the "timeliness and quality" of child protection services and responses from the state government and non-government agencies is expected to be tabled in March. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content.