By Julie Appleby

Twenty-nine percent of children taken from their families and placed in foster care failed to receive at least one required medical checkup, the Health and Human Services Department Office of the Inspector General said in a report out today.

Such screenings can help spot health problems, including troubles with vision, hearing, development and mental health issues.

Those exams are particularly important for children in foster care because some have suffered neglect, abuse and other problems that could affect their health.

States set their own requirements, with many mandating that children be screened by medical staff within 24 hours of their placement in foster care – and again periodically under specific schedules that vary with age.

But the report — which looked at medical records in California, Illinois, New York and Texas — found that 12 percent of foster children didn’t get their initial checkup and another 17 percent did not get one or more of the periodic assessments required.

“Missing or late screenings may prevent children’s mental health needs, physical health needs, and developmental needs from being identified and treated,” OIG spokesman Mary M. Kahn said in a written statement.

The reviewed records were from July 2011 to June 2012. The report does not break out the specific failure rate in each state.

Most children in foster care qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor. In fiscal year 2011, Medicaid paid more than $5.3 billion for care provided to children in foster care.