My question involves guardianship in the State of: Washington
I wrote about the kids' mother a year ago in this thread, which is now closed http://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=124221
Basically, what recently happened is that the mother left the house to move to another town to be with her girlfriend, leaving the kids in the house with me, my mother and sibling. We all raise the kids, who are now 5 and 13. The 5 year old acted up at school and beat up several kids, and when he was told that they'd call me, his cousin, he told the teacher not to call me, because I'd beat him with a belt. I did tell him that, hoping to scare him ( I hadn't done it), but the teacher reported it to Child Protective Services (ChoPo) and ChoPo investigated and cleared me and ultimately helped me get custody of the kids due to neglect and Angela's mental illness (She has attempted suicide 4 times since April... She had gastric bypass and is going crazy now that she can't turn to food). Angela and Paul (kids' father and my cousin) ultimately agreed to sign the kids over to the state, and ChoPo left them with me as their guardian.
I have no real idea what's going on. I attended the dependency hearing only because the 13 year old was required to attend the hearing with a lawyer, and people asked a lot of info, and I was able to give Angela's lawyer real insight to her behavior, but in the end, all I know is I (thankfully) have legal custody of the kids, but we have a few more hearings to go through. Tuesday's hearing was about the 72-hour placement of the children, which is funny since they've been living with me since they moved to Seattle in 2010. Next there is a "shelter care" hearing, followed by a "pre-trial conference" and then finally a "fact finding" hearing. Angela has to be supervised (once she gets out of the psych ward for a her last attempt) in her twice-weekly visitations, and luckily, she cannot come to my house for any reason, so the visits must take place elsewhere.
What does this mean for me and the kids? Is this a temporary situation? The 13 year old's lawyer called them wards of the state, and referred to them as being "in the system" so are they foster kids now? Why are they having multiple hearings over the same issue, placement of the kids? I mean if Angela was in the psych ward the day of the hearing, and ChoPo put her on supervised visitation, surely they can't be thinking of giving the kids back to her in a month or so? She doesn't even have anywhere to live now... Angela attacked her girlfriend and broke the windshield of her car, who threw her out... prompting another suicide attempt...
I'm looking at the court paperwork, and it says that this was the Shelter Care Hearing, so... I'm unclear that the next hearing will be about.. possibly the Pre-trial conference, but what does it mean to have the state place these kids with me in terms of what I can do? If I go to Vancouver, CA for the day, is that a big deal? If I wanted to move to Portland, Or next year, could I take the kids or would they belong to the state? I get TANF for food and medical benefits for the kids, I have since Angela left months ago, is this something I should stop getting? It would be quite expensive since the 13 year old has braces now...
I'm clueless, but since all I really have to do is take care of the kids, my lack of knowledge is unimportant, but what does it all mean in terms of the custody of them?