On Thursday, Mike DeWine told members of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio: “I have waited a long time to do this.” The governor pledged as a candidate to make a substantial investment in children services, and now he was unveiling the commitment he would make in his first two-year state budget proposal -- a virtual doubling of funding to $151 million per year.

No surprise his audience applauded. Children services advocates long have been arguing for an increased commitment from the state. They have been especially compelling as the opioid, or addiction, epidemic has hit, Ohio now on track to have nearly 19,000 children in foster care by 2020. The past five years, the number of children in foster care has increased 21 percent, with placement costs climbing by one-third.

Summit County Children Services notes that the past year, more than 60 percent of the children entering its system did so because of substance abuse issues in their households.

As governor, John Kasich succeeded in driving more state resources to serving abused and neglected children. Yet the state has remained at the bottom, 50th of the 50 states, in providing funding to children services. DeWine rightly described the ranking as “just appalling.”

Summit County is fortunate to have a local property tax levy devoted to children services. Thirty-seven of the state’s 88 counties do not have such a funding mechanism, and many are in rural areas where the opioid epidemic has been at its most devastating. Thus, they lack the resources to respond, the state, in effect, practicing its own version of child neglect, children losing their parents to drug addiction, even in the form of deadly overdoses, and then facing inadequate public support to help them cope, let alone find stability they need.

That isn’t to say local children services workers are not making an effort. They are. Many also are overwhelmed by strained budgets and circumstances, agencies, as a result, dealing with high turnover in staffing.

The governor has in mind a big increase in the overall allocation for child protection. He also outlined specific areas of priority, such as Family and Children First Councils to coordinate care for those children with needs requiring the attention of multiple agencies. More funding would be available to grandparents and kinship care providers who face a financial burden in doing the right thing. Resources would go to expanding the evidence-based START program, which helps children with parents who are addicted to drugs.

These and other related priorities require the approval of state lawmakers. The hope is they will join the governor in addressing a glaring need. As with other spending initiatives of the governor, the question hovers: Where will he get the money? His budget plan is due this week. Worth stressing is that the added sum for children services is most affordable, as are other investments, both high on the governor’s agenda and less so, such as need-based college aid and a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit.

Recall that the state has routed $3 billion a year to tax cuts the past 14 years, tilted heavily to the wealthy. It counts $9 billion a year in tax breaks, many having gone decades without testing whether they have been useful or remain so. Not that Mike DeWine is going to challenge his fellow Republicans on their tax cuts. (He already wants a higher gas tax.) What lawmakers should know is that the governor long has been an advocate for foster children, especially during his days in the U.S. Senate. So he has been waiting for this opportunity, and now he has a proposal that points to making a real difference.